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How Mental Strategies Can Help You Reach Your Goals

Image Credit: Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press

As an athlete (if you run or workout in any capacity, you are an athlete - believe it!), we often think about the physical input needed to reach certain goals: spending time in the gym strength training, hours hitting the pavement for a run, and eating to fuel these endeavors. But, the mental aspect can be just as important, if not more important, to realizing these goals. Here are some mental strategies that you can try implementing

  1. Use mindfulness to set goals that are purposeful. Starting from the very beginning, if you set goals that are made intentionally, you will be more likely to follow through on these goals. Journalling about goals you have, and what you hope to achieve or learn from them, will help you to have a "why", which you can think of for motivation when you really don't want to get out of bed for that early morning run, or do another set of an exercise at the gym.

  2. Practice mindfulness while training. Be present in the moment! It is so easy to be thinking about the next 5 miles that you still need to run, be worried about that challenging workout that is scheduled for tomorrow, or to get stuck wallowing about how poorly a race or workout went the day before. The reality is, worrying about tomorrow or fretting over what happened yesterday is probably not going to help you perform better right now. Acknowledge what happened, and what you need to take away or learn from the experience, and move on with the plan to make the necessary adjustments. When you are in a workout, long run, or race, be in the mile that you are in and focus on doing your best in that mile, instating of wasting precious mental energy on what is coming next.

  3. Utilize the power of visualization. This may feel like it is contradicting the above instruction to stay present. However, you can use the tool of visualization to "practice" upcoming events. You may visualize yourself in the last 100 meters of your race, finishing powerfully with strong form as you run a PR. You can also visualize success in the building blocks that are getting you towards your goal. The night before a hard workout, visualize yourself executing each interval with the even splits that you are hoping for. You can also visualize and practice for the hard moments - how are you going to stay focused and dig deep when your legs are burning, it is hot, and you are tired? Visualizing difficult situations can help you be more resilient and respond better when you are faced with such challenges.

  4. If you are interested in leveling up your mental game to help you achieve your goals, you can also work with a Sport Psychologist or Mental Performance Coach who can help you dive deeper into road blocks of the mind that may be holding you back. If you are interested in seeking professional assistance, we can recommend some pros who are both local or work virtually with athletes!

Thanks for reading! I hope that you're inspired to train your most powerful organ - your mind!

Dr. Elizabeth Karr PT, DPT


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