Is Your Head Getting in the Way of Your Racing?
So what kind of a head do you have on your shoulders? Are you competing at the level that you’re capable of? Or do you regularly perform better in practice than you do in important competitions? Are there particular opponents who you consistently lose to who have no business beating you? Do fears and self-doubts paralyze you and prevent you from performing to your potential. Are you the kind of athlete who regularly steals defeat from the closing jaws of victory?
If some of these questions bother you, then you probably already know how critically important the mental part of your sport is. If you want to take your racing performance to the next level, then you have to be willing to take your training far beyond where most athletes stop. Most serious runners in XC religiously work on the physical part of the sport. They’ll work on their strength, fitness and endurance. They’ll work on the proper technique. Is this stuff important? You betcha! You can’t become successful without “paying your physical dues” in this way. Hard work is definitely one of the main keys to your success on the course. Without it, you’ll quickly fall behind.
Unfortunately, this is where most runners stop. When they go into their races, they hope they’ll perform well, they hope that they’ll have their “A” game with them today, they hope that they’ll win. You would never leave your strength, conditioning or technique to chance. So why would you leave the most important part of your racing performance, the mental part to chance?
Think about this: Getting good as an athlete in practice is 95% physical and 5% mental. Translation: You have to work hard on your conditioning and “physical game” to make it happen. However, once you line up against your opponent, the percentages flip flop. Being successful is 95% mental and 5% physical. You have the conditioning, technique and the proper strategy, now you have to make sure that you stay calm under pressure and keep yourself focused on the right things. For example, your concentration needs to stay in the moment, on responding immediately to the racing situation that you find yourself in and being ready to adjust at a moment’s notice to sudden and sometimes unexpected changes in the course. If you let your mind jump ahead to the future, (i.e. thinking about winning or losing) or slip back to the past (i.e. a previous mistake or run), then you’ll end up getting yourself too uptight and distracted to perform to your potential. This means that you have to be able to rebound quickly from your mistakes and not carry them into the next moment or race.
You have to believe in yourself and have the self-confidence to focus on yourself and not your opponents when you’re under pressure. You have to be able to handle last minute negativity and self-doubts. You have to be able to master your fears.
With a little work, these mental skills as well as a few important others can be systematically trained to the point where you develop the reputation as a mentally tough competitor. My CD program, The Best Mental Toughness Training Program for Cross Country Runners (ON SALE NOW!) will take you to the next level!
Are you struggling with performance anxiety or a slump? Do you consistently perform better in practice than when it counts?
Dr. Alan Goldberg is an internationally recognized expert in the field of performance enhancement. As a Sports Performance Consultant Dr. G works with athletes across all sports at every level helping them develop mental toughness, better handle competitive pressure and perform to their potential. Dr. G writes on the subjects of peak performance and mental toughness. He is the author of the revolutionary new book, "This Is Your Brain On Sports," "Sports Slump Busting,"and his latest CD program, 14 Steps To Mental Toughness. Check out his most popular program- Mental Toughness Training Package for XC Runners-Special Savings.