Train Your Brain Like You Train Your Body

Train your brain like you train your body.

This is not a new piece of advice nor is it particularly sexy, but it has merit when it comes to getting your brain ready to perform when it counts.

However, training your brain is something to avoid getting blazé about given the increasing body of knowledge about our brain’s neuroplasticity.

Whilst there are numerous psychological skills and strategies that we teach and loads of variety in the application of these skills, the basics still stick.

Basics in any field are worth remembering, and more importantly, fostering.  The basics apply for athletes of all levels, particularly if you are an athlete embarking on a career in elite sport.

Before getting into the basics there is a required mindset to your psychology which means that you ‘must’…

  • Treat your performance psychology as a trainable skill.
  • Take personal responsibility for working on your mental approach and the psychological skills to make you your best…in the same way you do for every other skill required to be a world class athlete.
  • Take charge of your psychological skills and the training of these skills.
  • View training as the most important part of becoming capable of being able to compete when it counts.

Given you’re on-board with the above mindset, do you…?

  • Set personal goals.  Set your intentions and the behaviours required in training and competition to achieve with a strong focus on how to win.
  • Train to win.  Train under pressure with intent and engagement.
  • Know your competitive mindset.  Know how you need to think/feel/behave to compete at your best.
  • Know how you react under pressure/stress and have self-regulation strategies to compete when it counts.
  • Train your competitive mindset in every training session.  Become efficient at getting yourself ‘ready’ to compete.
  • Incorporate pre-competition routine into your training schedule.
  • Set goals for each training session.  Be proactive and find out from the coaches they’re not clear before the session starts.
  • Review each training session to ensure optimal learning and progress.
  • Include simulations of competition day into your training schedule.
  • Set time aside in your schedule each week for the psychological skills such as breathing, meditation, or mental rehearsal, if these are skills that you find helpful for performance.
  • Respect each of your teammates’ strategies.  Trust that they will do what they need to for their own and the team’s performance.
  • Engage in effective communication practices between fellow athletes and coaches.

I’ve used versions of the above basic skill set as a ‘checklist’ of sorts outlining a set of standard behaviours that are important to achieve when training your brain for competing when it counts.

The behaviours in the ‘checklist’ are within your control.  Irrespective of everything and everyone else in your training and competitive environment, these are behaviours you can do all of the time by choosing to be disciplined and committed to the pursuit of being professional about your sport.

Just like the basics for hydration is drinking water, for nutrition is eating real food, for exercise is movement, and for sleep is 7-9 hours per night, there are basics for performance psychology that we cannot deny help athletes to perform when it counts.

The basics can be considered as knowing the things that work and putting them in place for your psychological preparation and performance.

Do you know your basics?

Andrea Furst PhD | Sport & Exercise Psychologist CPsychol HCPC Registered
Get in contact with Andrea –  Andrea is based in London and provides both face-to-face and virtual sport psychology services to athletes worldwide.