If you’re an athlete or a coach or a runner, swimmer, rider or gym goer, then you would know and understand that a large part of your performance and enjoyment in competition and in training comes down to your mindset and mental skills.

And if you’ve ever tried to master the mental skills you might have found it pretty challenging. There are SO many skills and strategies that can be learned and implemented to help improve performance and enjoyment including imagery, self-talk, pre performance routines, relaxation, breathing, mindfulness, cue words… the list is endless.

However, it is impossible to implement any of those strategies if you skip the VERY important Step 1.

1.Self-Awareness

You have to get to know yourself; your current habits, thinking styles, automatic thoughts, behaviours, emotions, personality and role in relationships before you can begin to implement mental skills training.

And this is challenging! You might struggle to REALLY get to know yourself and if you do that’s okay. It might be easiest to talk it out with a coach or someone else that will listen with no judgement.

Here’s a few questions to get you started:

– What does your optimal performance look and feel like? – before, during and after, physically, cognitively and emotionally.
– How does that look and feel different to your performance now? Currently what’s your internal dialogue sound like, what does pre performance look like, how are you feeling physically and emotionally?
– What is blocking you from achieving optimal performance? Is it your arousal levels; too low or too high, is it your self-talk, is it pressure, is it negative thinking, is it motivation, is it poor concentration, is it anxiety?
– Who is in your support network – what role does everyone play and how do these relationships impact you?

Before you can begin to change you must first recognise what it is that needs to change. Take time to reflect, evaluate and uncover what’s going on in your mind before you try and load yourself with new strategies.