Arnold Schwarzenegger has famously said, “The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 per cent.”
Unlocking that inner belief and putting mind over body is much easier said than done though, especially in the darkest depths of a gruelling workout when your muscles are screaming at you to stop.
But overcoming the urge to relent the pace is the defining characteristic of all the best athletes in the world.
Here, Built for Athletes looks at five tips for how to access mental reserves when the going gets tough.
Get A Mantra
Having a motivational phrase to repeat to yourself over and over is a classic way of pushing the body beyond its limits and one used by many athletes. Irish Marathon runner Stephen Scullion, for example, tells himself over and over, “I am an
animal,” during the final few miles of a race. Scullion came second in the Dublin Marathon last month, securing a massive PB in the process, and before the race had written on his left arm the word “patience”, and on his right arm the
word “animal” in bold black letters.
Visualisation is probably the most common exercise taught by sports psychologists and can be extremely valuable. By vividly imagining yourself pushing through and completing a hard session, envisaging the smells, sounds, sights and emotions you might encounter in the process, the idea is you can more easily do it in a workout because it’s as if you’ve done it before.
Lomachenko Breath Holding
In the lead up to his fights, pound-for-pound boxing world champion Vasyl Lomachenko practices holding his breath under water for as long as he can. The Ukranian says this is so that when he steps into the ring, he has already pushed his body beyond its comfort zone and tested his brain.
Hanging from a bar for time is an exercise often used to improve grip strength, but it can also be used to improve psychological strength because of the extreme mental fortitude required. You’ll find it will get challenging pretty quickly, and the hang essentially becomes a test of how long you can put up with the pain for.
Find Your Optimal Mindset
Depending on the workout or event, some athletes can get themselves too pumped up at the start and end up blowing all their energy straight away.
Others have the problem that they’re too relaxed and need to get more fired up.
Finding a balance and deciding how best to get yourself focused before a workout is key, and it can be worth coming up with a strategy of how to do so.