Testing your mental conditioning through awareness.
In my introduction last week as The Derailleur at Terry Bicycles, I mentioned that I coach, among other types of clients, athletes of all shapes and sizes on their mental conditioning. Your body can be as fit as an elite athlete’s but if your mental conditioning is lacking, you may perform like you have “cement shoes” (as my friend from Jersey says.) So what is mental conditioning? I know you are about to click off this blog because the last thing you need to be told is to do more exercising. But listen up, this form of exercise is important. This isn’t about your athletic strengths; this is about how you show up on a day-to-day basis in your life. This is about how your mind performs.
Ok, so how do you even know how “fit” your thoughts and beliefs are? Let’s break it down to this…mental conditioning is about training your mental fitness. Mental fitness is your own self-awareness around how your mind works (or doesn’t work) to support you and your physical conditioning. In other words, what you think is what you do…so what have you been thinking lately? Does it sound like “That was a really hard ride but I am proud of the effort I put on the last ascent.” Or does it sound like this, “Really? You were the slowest on that climb…you came in last. Last! Because that’s where losers come in…last. Nice job loser.”
Your thoughts may not be that radical either way, but my guess is that there has been a time or two that you “trash talked” yourself after a ride that didn’t go as planned. Worse yet, you may have even “trash talked” yourself BEFORE you even got on the bike. Mental trash is not a source of motivation; it is exactly as it is named…trash. It clutters up the mind, keeping you from learning the lessons of the experience and definitely keeps you from being able to pat your self on the back for the effort you put in. All-important steps to increase your mental fitness level.
So the first step to mental conditioning is awareness. You have to understand where you are first, before you know how much to train. One way to test your mental fitness level is to see how many times in a day you say the word “Should” or “Must” or “Gotta”…it might sound like “I should have done better” or “I must go faster.” Keep a list of how many times in a day you say words like “should” and its evil friends (Must and Gotta) and see how limiting the “should” often makes you feel. How heavy are the “Shoulds” that you carry with you on your ride each time?
What would happen if instead of thinking about what you “should do”, you started to train yourself to think about “what is.” This is often called mindfulness and is a way to self-awareness. Thoughts, feelings, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors – all are raw material for the growth of the mental side of your game. The mentally conditioned athlete makes self-awareness a priority and uses it to strengthen their core mental skills. And instead of “should do” they condition themselves to think “I am…” More on “I am” to come in future blogs.
Once you become aware of how many times you use limiting self-talk or beliefs, you are able to get a clearer picture of how what your mental conditioning level is. Is it strong and designed to move you forward in a healthy, sustainable way or does it act as a defeating message keeping you in your place and preventing you from growing?
The first steps to increased mental fitness include the most important…awareness. So I challenge you this week to become aware of condition level of your mental game. Keep track of the “shoulds” and share with us what you find! There is no judgment, only awareness. Once we know, then we can change them.