Amy Morin is a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, a bestselling book that is being translated into more than 20 languages. Amy loves to share the latest research on resilience and the best strategies for overcoming adversity and building mental muscle. In this post Amy explores what we can learn from elite athletes to develop a winning mindset.
Elite athletes know their minds can be their best asset or their worst enemy. Skill and talent will only take them so far. The right mindset is the key to reaching their greatest potential.
That’s why many elite athletes, including Olympians, hire mental strength coaches. They understand the importance of building mental muscle. Mental strength exercises train their brains to help them perform at their peak
Here are three things the greatest Olympians have trained their brains to do:
1. Control Their Physiological Responses
Researchers have found a correlation between self-regulation and world ranking. Athletes who can regulate their respiration rate, heart rate, and the activation of their muscles perform better than those who struggle. And those who do it best rank among the best athletes in the world.
Elite athletes use biofeedback to learn how to regulate their body’s response to stress. Trainers attach sensors and devices to monitor the electrical activity in their muscles or their skin temperature. Then, athletes gain feedback on how to control their physiological responses. Changing their thoughts or changing their breathing can be instrumental in managing adrenaline.
In an interview with ESPN, mental strength coach, Robert Andrews said he’d been working with gymnast Simone Biles on relaxing her body. "When she over-rotates, she's too amped up. When she sticks it, she's in the zone," he said.
Throughout the Olympics, Biles placed her right hand on her stomach, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath before each performance. Clearly, her methods worked well because she won four gold medals and one bronze.
How this can work for you: Getting anxious or overly amped up wastes energy. Learning how to keep your body calm ensures all your energy is devoted to the tasks you want to focus on. Before you run—especially if it’s a race--take slow, deep breaths and you'll keep your body calm.
Many olympic athletes hire mental
strength coaches. They understand the importance of building mental muscle.
2. Regulate Their Emotions
Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky is known for maintaining Zen-like calm. In an interview with Vogue, Ledecky said she doesn't feel the pressure when she's in a swim meet. Even when she’s facing the world’s toughest competitors, she stays focused on her goals without getting rattled. For her, that calm state is key to performing best.
But another athlete may perform better when she’s excited, and another may do better when he’s angry. But the key is being aware of which emotions—and at which intensity—help you do best.
Mental strength trainers help athletes develop pre-performance routines that get them into the right frame of mind. While pacing around the room is likely to raise an athlete's anxiety, listening to inspirational music might evoke just the right emotion.
How this can work for you: Pay close attention to your emotions and think about how you feel when you're performing at your best. Then, take steps to get yourself into the right frame of mind before you approach the starting line.
3. Maintain Focus
It only takes a split second of distraction to completely derail an athlete’s performance. And for an Olympic athlete, a one second distraction can easily make the difference between a gold medal and no medal.
Elite athletes practice staying in the zone so they don’t have to struggle to concentrate during competition. Some athletes recite mantras to keep themselves on track, such as, "Give everything." Others, regularly practice mindfulness so they can be fully aware of each moment.
How this can work for you: Practice getting—and staying—in the zone. Create a positive affirmation to say yourself, like, "You've got this," and repeat it each time you get rattled. With practice, you’ll be less distracted by external factors, such as the weather or the crowd.