If you can do the physical, the most difficult part of the game to master is the mental. This is what many athletes miss in their preparation for competitions. I was asked by a reporter the other day about the greatest challenge on The 2012 Isles Mile Challenge and I said “constantly taming my mind on tour.” I feel our minds love to jump around hurting our concentration and focus. Being present focused seems so simple, but yet is so elusive. Our minds jump from the past to the future keeping us mentally weak and hurting our athletic performances.
So how do we begin to tame the mind?
1) Stay in the here and now. This race, this point, or this play is all that matters. Every other thought will diminish your performance. Easy to say, extremely difficult to do, but it is something you can learn.
2) The mind-body connection is bridged by your breathing. People laugh at me when they hear me breathe during a mile race (heavily through the mouth and nose), but they also laugh when they hear me perform my breathing exercises for relaxation, focus, and visualization (almost Darth Vader like). Deep breaths through the nose activates the lower part of your lungs and will increase blood flow and increase energy. Longer exhalations than inhalations can also help you relax and calm your entire body.
3) Create habits that keep you in the present. For example, get used to giving your absolute best mental effort in every competition (something you can control) and forget about the outcome (something you cannot control) – it is an amazing zone of performance that you will want to repeat again and again. You will be free to compete at your highest mental level.