You give your body the ultimate in fuel, but as a performance athlete, we don’t need to tell you how important it is to have your head in the game too. Those legs aren’t going to pump harder when you hit the wall if you’re preoccupied with working out tax deductibles, or going over yesterday’s meeting notes. So, how do you make the body brain connection work for you? One way is to use a Mantra –
 
 
Ok but what is a mantra? It’s a short sentence or phrase which you repeat to yourself for motivation/inspiration – the idea is that it keeps you motivated, and in a positive state of mind. The positive part here is big – you want your phrase to be structured in an affirming way.

“Research shows that individuals with a positive outlook are not only healthier and more inspired to reach their goals, they are also more likely to exercise. In addition, having a positive mantra can help you to better visualize yourself reaching success, as well as help you accomplish all of your health and fitness goals.” – oxygenmag.com (source)

Avoid using words like “Don’t” in your mantra, your brain can skip this word and just focus on the negative – example” Don’t Slow Down” – rather focus on something in the present tense like “I’ve Got This”, “I Am Strong”.  If you look up Ironic Process Theory, the common example is don’t think about the white bear. So, what are you thinking about now? Yup, that bear! The don’t falls away (weird) –

“Ironic process theory, also known as the white bear problem, is a psychological concept asserting that conscious attempts to suppress thoughts make them more likely to surface.”
-gloveworx.com (source)

Choose mantras for specific parts of your regime – your training mantra may be different to your performance one, or perhaps you have one specifically for relaxation when you need to unwind.
 
Elite performance expert, Dr Michele, quotes this great example of one of her students who uses a mantra to flip himself from negative self talk, into a positive space:
Avoid using words like “Don’t” in your mantra, your brain can skip this word and just focus on the negative – example” Don’t Slow Down” – rather focus on something in the present tense like “I’ve Got This”, “I Am Strong”.  If you look up Ironic Process Theory, the common example is don’t think about the white bear. So, what are you thinking about now? Yup, that bear! The don’t falls away (weird) –

“He typically thinks, ‘what if I don’t play well tomorrow’. When he notices that, he changes it to his mantra – ‘I am going to follow my game plan and play my game.’ “ (source)

When developing your own mantra, and a personal one most suited to you can make it more powerful, starting with your negative thoughts and then looking at ways of converting them into the positive can be a good starting point. Also bear in mind that you’ll want to go for something short – mid marathon reciting a few sentences is going to be too much mental work – you may end up just picking an empowering word – “Move”, “Breathe”. A visualization attached to your mantra may also help to anchor it for you – so give that image some thought while you work on your new psychological training tool.
 
As you move towards your 2019 performance goals, look at incorporating a mantra or “instrument of thinking” (source) into you training and event preparation routine, and share your favourites with us on Facebook or Instagram, we’d love to hear them.

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