Training the Mind by Sam Winston
Often times in our training, we hit plateaus and walls that keep us from progressing and moving closer to our goals. Trainers have lots of tips and tricks like negative reps, isometric exercises, etc, to help push physical adaptations, but very seldom do we utilize one of the most influential parts of our body to push us past our obstacles. The mind is an extremely powerful tool that has the potential to push you past your limits much more efficiently than focusing solely on your physical technique.
Back during the cold war when the USA and Soviet Union were at odds on everything, the Soviets were very diligent in studying ways to make their athletes better than US athletes. They designed a study observing 3 different groups. Gathering a large group of athletes of similar level and sport, they placed them into three groups. Group 1 spent 100% of their training on physical performance. Group 2 split their training 50% physical and 50% mental, and Group 3 dedicated 75% mental training and 25% physical training. What the soviets found is that Group 3 dedicating the most time on mental training ended up having more consistent gains and better advances in performance than the other 2 groups. Now, the soviets after finding this took it a step farther and they started hooking up sensors and testing equipment to find out precisely why. Oddly enough, the study found that when athletes completed various mental exercises about their sports and events, their nerves experienced a “priming” effect that acted as a precursor to actual movement. This effect on the muscles helped organize itself making the actions more efficient and therefore more capable to perform efficiently.
The mind has great effect on the way our bodies perform and can be the key to keep our progress going and avoiding the plateaus. Here are a few techniques to use when you are developing the training regimen for your mind!
Visualization: This technique requires a vivid imagination and a quite space. Visualization is a method to see yourself completing your goals. Start your session by closing your eyes and placing yourself in a familiar setting, your home, your favorite gym, some place where you can imagine not just the sights, but the sounds and smells making the mental image as precise as possible. Then, slowly change the image to seeing yourself doing the event you are practicing
for, see yourself doing it from your own eyes and watching yourself like a spectator, manipulate the image and see yourself accomplishing your goal, winning the race, getting the time, lifting the weight… whatever it may be. The real key to this technique is to make the images in your mind as real and detailed as possible.
Programmed relaxation: This technique is very good for after practice and to develop good body control and increased body awareness. Start lying on your back and completely relaxed, close your eyes and begin by flexing your neck, hold all flexes for 10-15 seconds. Then continue to individually flex all the parts of your body, after the neck, move to your shoulders, then your triceps, followed by your biceps, forearms, hands, chest, upper back, abdominals, lats, lower back, buttocks, hips, quadriceps, hamstring, calves, feet. Then after every individual part has been flexed, flex your entire body and hold it for 10-15 seconds. Repeat this entire process 2 or 3 times focusing on the individual muscles as your feel your body flex and release.
Developing a consistent training for your mind can produce very significant improvements, in technique and strength. Take advantage of the benefits your mind can bring to your training. Help make yourself stronger every day in not just the body, but the mind as well.