“One of the key things that has risen out of this Covid experience is that there’s no better training for resilience. We get this opportunity to test ourselves, we get to be creative with our motivation, and there’s no better way to train our mindset.” Dr. Sharleen Hoar, Ph.D., MPC
Athletic performance doesn't just rely on physical output. The psychological components that make up mental performance are critical to the success of an individual. Mental performance is difficult to master in any given year. Throw in an erratic training schedule, canceled competitions, and a slew of other unknowns and it can feel just about impossible to train the mental side of your performance.
To help you set the right mindset and routine to conquer 2021 and beyond, Blonyx sat down with mental performance consultant (MPC) Dr. Sharleen Hoar. Dr. Hoar is the Lead, Mental Performance at the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific and a senior MPC practitioner for Olympic and Paralympic athletes, coaches, and staff. Throughout her career she’s worked with national teams in cross country skiing, mountain biking (cross-country), rugby, swimming, triathlon and paratriathlon.
We asked Dr. Hoar to provide some ways you can train your mental performance as you head into 2021.
5 Key Ways to Ensure a Continued Sense of Motivation During 2021
1. Have a Firm Belief
Dr. Hoar states that “having a firm belief means understanding your evidence lists, why you are worthy and why you are capable”.
Write down all the things you accomplished in 2020, big and small, and it will help you believe in your capability to achieve whatever you set out to do next. Did you increase your front squat weight despite gym closures? Or, were you able to master your handstand push up from your living room wall? Reflecting on those achievements can reinforce your self-confidence even when things aren’t going as planned.
Being present in the here and now will ground your expectations. “Stop donating your time and space to the “what ifs” and the future, it will only serve to waste your energy,” says Dr. Hoar.
Unsure if regionals will still happen as planned or the thought of a virtual 10K leaving you unmotivated? Double-down and focus on what’s in front of you at this moment. You can still train and give yourself the best chance to succeed if you keep yourself in the here and now.
If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed with the future and all its uncertainties, Dr. Hoar suggests small visualization techniques to re-ground your mindset in the present. It’s as simple as stopping what you’re doing and reciting your 5 favourite flavours of ice cream, or identifying 5 things you see around you.
3. Ground Your Why
Understand your purpose, why you are training, and what it means to you.
What are the two-a-days for? What are the hours spent on the bike working towards? Nailing down your why--your reason behind it all--can keep you focused on the path you’re on, not on the interim setbacks you may face.
4. Have an Optimistic Outlook
Optimism is productive, while blinding positivity and happiness in the face of a challenge is often unproductive. Understanding how to handle a challenge productively, by identifying areas of growth or learning opportunities, is a simple way to train your optimism muscles.
For example, if you didn’t meet your goal time, or you weren’t able to climb that sought after route, deconstruct why. Did you spend too little time training? Too much time training the wrong thing? Understand where you fell short in that challenge and use that learning to help instill some optimism about the achievement of your next goal.
5. Social Support
Really lean on the people that are close to you, whether that be your teammates, coaches, family, or friends. Identify all the meaningful people you have in your life and let the gratitude you feel towards them guide your optimism. Reflect on the ways your coaches, trainers, and teammates maintained a sense of connection virtually, even if social distancing measures meant you couldn’t be present with one another physically.
Ensuring you have the right mindset when reflecting on this past year is a key way to set yourself up for success in 2021. Understanding how you handled factors that were out of your control provides you with a framework to plan how you will handle uncertainties in the future.
Additionally, Dr Hoar highlighted the importance of mental health in mental performance. There are some key things you can do to ensure you are prioritizing your mental wellbeing that are as simple as getting a good night's rest! For more information on the importance of sleep to your mental health you can find it here.
In the final words of Dr. Hoar “Look back at the gifts that the year has given. It doesn’t have to be a write-off of a year - it’s part of your journey,”.
The goal-setting that lays out your athletic journey will without a doubt look different this year with much change and uncertainty ahead. Stay tuned for part two of our conversation with Dr. Hoar where she provides three strategies for goal-setting in an erratic year.
Reference: Sikar and Fletcher model of mental fortitude