It has long been accepted in sport that top athletes require mental preparation for their performance. The Telegraph quotes cycling legend Chris Froome as explaining “It’s about the body only up to a certain point…” From then on, the battle is mental.
So what can everyone else learn from the best? Just as you lift weights in the gym to build muscle, taking time to build mental strength has enormous benefits too. Even 10 minutes’ meditation a day can make a significant improvement to your overall health and happiness.
The Mental Health Foundation describes being in good mental health as enabling you to make the most of your potential, cope with life and play a full part. Isn’t that what you’re striving for, not only in the gym but in life in general? To put in your best, then, you need to nurture your mind. Let’s look at how to do that, and how it pays off in the gym.
Improving your mental health
As the charity Mind explains, mental health is dynamic and changes from day to day. Some people are more prone to issues than others, building strength gives you resilience for life’s inevitable pitfalls.
There are various ways to achieve this. Some are more inward-looking; you could try meditation, with an app such as Headspace, or practising Mindfulness techniques which help you to “still” your mind. You don’t have to be particularly religious to enjoy the benefits of spirituality; recognising your inner self and how you relate to the outer world, which can make a huge difference.
You could also try an outward-facing approach: connecting with other people for support, building positive relationships, contributing to the community for a sense of achievement. In all of this, taking care of your body with sleep, nourishing food and physical activity, plays a substantial part and brings noticeable benefits.
Taking a strong mind to the gym
You know for yourself that the days when you show up to train feeling motivated and optimistic are far more productive than the ones when you go through the motions. Good mental health helps you to not to feel defeated when you miss a goal, or to feel discouraged if results aren’t immediate. Many endurance athletes credit mental resilience for their successes; and if that means they can run 53 marathons in 53 days then you can totally stick to your programme for the next week, month or year.
If you can make time in your routine to focus on your mental strength you should see an improvement across the board. Not only is it a great way to cope with stress and the demands of life, but it can also help you to bring your best efforts to the gym. That in turn will make you feel great, which boosts your mood even further. Now that’s a cycle to really get pumped up about.