The Mind Of An Athlete

To become the healthiest version of ourselves, we largely know what needs to be done or what needs to be fixed.

We need to train (a term I prefer over “exercise” since it levels up the activity and refers to a higher degree of movement activities to accomplish a larger goal), eat a balanced diet, take time for recovery, have a healthy mind etcetera.

Having a healthy mind is a very broad statement. For some, it may mean finding solitude through meditation, for others feeling the satisfaction of social interactions. The range is tremendous. For athletes, happiness and a healthy mind may be very different than for most.

As an athlete, training has helped my mind in countless ways. In return, my mind focusses on things which in turn improve my training. It’s a little bit like starting to read frequently. This will make your reading comprehension improve which in turn will motivate you to read more.

For example: training will make many people become more aware of their nutrition because they want to reap the rewards, recover better and see the best results they can. The awareness of fueling your body correctly immediately increases.

This is important. That is why new or beginning athletes need to “stick it out” for a while until some behaviors and routines become part of the new and improved lifestyle (and the mind adjusts to finding joy and accomplishment within the activity).

There are few more motivating things than seeing your results come to fruition. In return for your behavioral changes and efforts you will reach goals, become healthier and fitter, decrease your risk of illness and yes, improve your mind functions and outlook on various things. Training will alter your mindset and way of thinking so give this change the time it needs to develop.

Beginning athletes need to develop confidence in their abilities and until they do, they need to accept that every session will be a learning experience. Once you become an athlete who believes in his / her ability, you will have created an entire new outlook on both yourself as well as everyday challenges and situations. Some things may start to matter more and others will matter less. You'll become more resilient, efficient and deal with stress better.

When studies observe athletes who are at peak performance, they find that they have unburdened hearts, a positive outlook, passion as well as full focus and engagement (which is called “Flow” and the ultimate goal as well as tool, more on this another time).

On another (practical) note, studies have also demonstrated that athletes can better identify trajectories (could come in useful in every day but also emergency situations), body language and anticipate movements and process situations very quickly based on similar previous experiences. Physical training alters the mind and your mind will also determine what kind of athlete you are. Remember it's a two way street. Are you the athlete who gives up easily or the one who perseveres? Training will strengthen your mind but your mind can also boost your training.

Now, what’s an athlete’s mind about? When we look at higher level athletes, we see that:

Most have a growth mindset, not a fixed mindset. A growth mindset

means that:

  • You persist in the face of setbacks.

  • You embrace challenges.

  • You see effort as a path to mastery and experience it as passion in learning instead of looking for approval by others.

  • You learn from criticism.

  • You praise your effort when you accomplish something.

  • In failure, you see it as an opportunity for a path forward to success and not take it personally (what needs to be worked on?)

Having a growth mindset is a crucial tool. A fixed mindset on the contrary will often take motivation away because the individual believes qualities are fixed traits and can’t change which sabotages their path forward and limits their potential. You see this when an athlete misses a shot and loses all drive in the game. Athletes with a growth mindset will see it as a temporary failure and pick themselves up and redeem themselves.

Athletes have an unobstructed and all consuming focus.

They have a goal and path and get lost within the activity. Novice athletes will have a lot more thoughts consuming them even during their training sessions (“I need to make a call” or “need to add this to the grocery list” etc.)

By achieving full focus, the athlete is able to find peace in his / her mind as well as achieve better training results. It’s a win / win. Stressing about other things during training won’t benefit anything.

They keep pushing.

They won’t quit until they say it’s time. They don’t get bogged down but keep fighting whether it’s a last rep, an early workout or the game of their lives.

The athlete’s mindset is comparable to a hunter who is relentless. You have your eye on the prey and will do what’s needed to achieve it.

There’s a large degree of body awareness and knowledge.

They are able to identify what is being worked, what feels right and wrong and what their limits are. This in turn makes them able to push past their limits in responsible and safer ways.

They’re in it for the long haul.

We’re not all elite athletes who make millions but a true athlete recognizes this is a lifestyle for life. They recognize what it means to be strong, healthy and have a well functioning body and anyone can obtain this mindset, regardless of external factors.

Training is not “work” or something you have to do.

It’s enjoyable and a preferred activity. It’s quality “me” time which make the athlete and yourself as an individual better. Every training session is a building block for long term results and become a better “you”.

Training becomes part of your identity.

This doesn’t mean you have to be a typical “jock” but your fitness lifestyles will determine a lot of your “being”. Use this to be a role model and a positive influence on people around you.

Remember, there is an athlete in all of us. Our levels, goals and commitments will vary but one thing is sure: If you are able to obtain an athlete’s mindset it will greatly benefit your goals, success as well as your mental state in every day situations and your outlook on both positive and demanding circumstances. At FitGuana, we are big supporters of promoting the fitness lifestyle instead of the typical fitness hypes and short term gains.

An athlete’s mindset is something you will carry with you for life and will benefit you in many ways. Therefore, we want to show you the way and motivate you to reach all your individual health & fitness goals.

By Sander V.

FitGuana Owner & Head Coach

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16 Bailey Ave

Ridgefield, CT 06877