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Training in Sports – A Mind and Body Approach (Part 2)

by Ashleigh Corbett on December 13, 2020

From the mind’s point of view 

Priming your body for, getting it through, and physically recovering from a training session is one thing. Getting the most out of training from the mind’s point of view, is just as beneficial.

Firstly, this blog is about team training. The team itself can have goals and aspects;

‘This team communicates well and defends as a unit’

‘That team has amazing chemistry and work well together’

‘an incredibly supportive team with goals higher than just winning the next game’

The team’s aims can be to provide a friendly atmosphere to train and play in, to help each other and the community, to expand the team beyond a group of players on the pitch or, ultimately, to be highly successful in their chosen discipline. These aims can extend to any team in any setting; it does not have to be a sports team! 

The important thing to remember in trying to reach team goals, is that they are called team goals for a reason; it is a goal that has to be worked on and achieved using a collective effort. These goals are not solo missions. It is important to have individual aims to improve an individual’s skills and potentials. But team morale and chemistry will be notably improved by reaching a common goal by working together. It’s like Michael Jordan said;

‘Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships’

Getting your mind right for training

If you’re looking forward to training and are feeling good about getting kitted up and going to do the session, the battle is easier to win, and you just need to think about what you would like to get out of the session and how you can help the team and yourself progress. Think about what you can give to training, as well as what you can get from it.

But how many times have you thought;

‘I really can’t be bothered’

‘my head isn’t in it today’ or

‘I don’t want to do this after the day I’ve had’?

The role the mind can have on the effectiveness of your training session is vastly underrated.

I’ve experienced it myself; sitting on the bench, lacing up at basketball practice and thinking ‘this next two hours is really going to be a struggle’. But that mindset will more often than not manifest itself, giving a tough practice to grind through, that is unenjoyable and not as productive as it could be.

The unfortunate truth is that we don’t always have good days, don’t always feel great, and don’t always have a mind free of distractions. Meaning we don’t always look forward to, and sometimes don’t even want to go to practice (or go begrudgingly to avoid the associated guilt!). A supplement that has been proven to increase mental alertness and may help with focus if this is where you struggle, is Vitamin B12.

If you find yourselves in this situation, feeling this way, firstly; it’s perfectly normal. Secondly; your mind is the steering wheel that decides how your emotions and feelings steer which way your mood goes…..we just need to try and change direction.

If you don’t feel up for or don’t want to go training, the first thing you have to ask yourself (and be completely honest with your answer!) is; 

Is there a legitimate reason I should not train today?

If you are carrying an injury that training could make worse or you are ill (more than a mild cold or cough), that is a reason not to train.

Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to train, training when dangerous can put you out of action for much longer than the original injury or illness did. You can only help your team so much when you’re sitting on the side lines.

But, if you can safely train, you need to look at what training will give you that day and try and turn your mind and mood around to the idea that going training is a good thing!

There will be elements of the sport you play or the training you take part in that you love, otherwise you wouldn’t do it. Focus on those elements to begin the process of giving yourself a mental kick up the backside. What is it you enjoy? Is it;

  • A love for the sport itself? 

 

If it is, then you are going training to take part in and enjoy something that you love outside of just the training ground. Training is just the mechanism that gets you playing the game you love!

 

  • Taking part in team based exercise? 

 

Working with other people to achieve a common goal can be hugely rewarding. A lot of people train with a team but never play games as they get such satisfaction from being able to help a group of people with the same goal!

 

  • A social thing? 

 

A lot of people enjoy training because they get to see and interact with their friends. Often your friendship circle can grow over time from being part of a team. This in itself is hugely beneficial for your mental wellbeing. If you’ve been let down in the day leading up to training, focus on the fact that your team are there for you this evening when you get to training.

 

  • Getting enjoyment from progression? 

 

What drives and motivates people can differ greatly from person to person, but a lot of people get a massive boost from seeing how far they’ve come. This can be over the course of a training session, a month, a season, or since they first started playing. If this is you, think about how far you’ve come already and the potential positive effect this training session can add to your progression.

 

  • The exercise?

 

A lot of people, me included, love to exercise! To test their bodies and push themselves physically. There’s a scientific reason for this too, physical activity releases endorphins, which are the body’s feel-good chemicals that flood your system after you exercise. 

Ever said to yourself;

 

’I feel a lot better after doing that’?

 

So, if you don’t feel like training, tell yourself how good you will feel when it’s done! 

 

This is not an exhaustive list, you might get something else completely out of training. Whatever it is, use that as your motivation to get your kit on and get going. It is often the case that momentum helps mood, and once you’ve taken the first steps to head to training, the once rocky road ahead, seems a lot smoother.

During training

The before and after of training and from the minds point of view is a much larger portion than during training, mainly because auto pilot often gets turned on during training; warming up and running drills that you are familiar with, so don’t need to think about too much. But….be mindful of what you are doing. Concentrate on how your body is responding to what you’re asking it to do and use this feedback; 

  • Is something hurting that you need to be wary of?
  • Are you feeling tired and need to look at your rest or nutrition?
  • Are your reactions as sharp as usual or have you lost focus on the exercise?

It important to dial in to how you are feeling and how you are performing to address any potential issues and help improve performance, rather than just going through the motions and ticking off drills as you go.

Can someone else hold you accountable, and you in turn hold them accountable to help each other improve? Partner work or work in groups is greatly beneficial for this and often forms a vital part of team training.

Remember how you are feeling during training too, you don’t need to keep a diary, but just be aware of what’s going on. It could help you adjust moving forwards if you wanted to improve mood, energy, or focus. If you had a great session and enjoyed yourself, remember that too! Remember how good you felt and use that as fuel for the fire should you ever find yourself struggling to motivate yourself for future training sessions!

After training

So, you’ve finished your session. A little more tired and a lot sweatier than when you started. 

Whether it was a good, bad, ugly, or indifferent session, now is the time for reflection (you can save the spiritual enlightenment for later!). Reflection can apply to what the session was like as a whole, and how you performed yourself.

Did you get what you wanted to out of training? – Did you achieve what you wanted to, and if not, why not?

Is there anything you want to work on personally or as a team, moving forwards? – This can help strengthen the team, improve skill sets and develop the team morale and chemistry.

How do you feel? – Are you happy with the training session or was it lacking something? Communication is key in team sports, and this can extend to training and speaking to people and coaches about ideas to positively change how sessions are structured or conducted. As long as it’s constructive, coaches should be open to having those conversations. 

Be aware of how you feel in a mental and emotional regard, immediately after training and then in the hours following it. Whatever you felt before, during and after the session was a result of some kind of stress or stimulus on your mind. 

Allowing yourself to reflect on the training session allows the greatest potential for improving your ability to mentally prepare, focus, achieve and enjoy your training!

Above all, training should be productive. It should help you progress as individuals and as a team (much of that is to do with the coaching….but I’ll save that for another blog!). If everyone is pulling in the same direction, being supportive, and the team is evolving and improving it means you are all much more likely to enjoy training and look forward to it. Plus, the post-training beer tastes a little bit sweeter!

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