When you think about athletes, what goes through your mind? Probably their physical talent and performance. Although strength, speed, power, endurance and muscle mass all play major roles in an athlete’s success, don’t forget that their mental toughness is also critical in their ability to triumph.
The mind is the key to unleashing your entire athletic potential. Using your psyche, you can quickly reap some major benefits. But gradually and constantly training your brain is the best way to achieve positive mental development.
Soumeya Sammoudi started boxing 10 years ago. She’s now a K-1 competitor specializing in Thai boxing, with 26 fights and 16 wins. Here’s the story of how she uses her mind to make herself unstoppable!
Whether you’re doing an exercise or movement for your sport that demands precision, being “present” in the moment and focusing on the task at hand is essential. Even the tiniest lack of concentration at a key moment often results in wasted time and energy.
So teach yourself to be present, focused and steadfast during your training for the best results. Be one with every move you make to create mind-muscle connections and keep your eyes on the prize.
Before every fight, Soumeya lives in the moment. In the locker room, she empties her mind and focuses solely on the action ahead, a significant factor in her future win. Using this technique, she avoids negative stress and has a better handle on her actions. Now that she’s calm, confident and prepped to fight, she’s already in the ring mentally before she even steps in.
Athletes set goals to keep themselves moving forward. Typically, they set both performance goals and process goals. An example of a performance goal is beating a personal record. Process goals are the stepping stones athletes use to reach a major goal. For instance, if your goal is to do 15 pull-ups, you first need to focus on the intermediate goals that will make it possible.
Soumeya writes down everything she does during her training to ensure that she’s making progress toward her goal and feels good about all the work she put in on the day of her fight. Recording the details of every workout helps her feel confident in her ability to take on her opponent.
If you do the same as Soumeya, you can boost your confidence and keep your mind on your success and off anything that’s beyond your control. Having a clear vision of your ultimate goal keeps fear of the unknown at bay.
Words have the power to shape you and how you interact with others and even yourself. Every day, over 50,000 thoughts can cross your mind… thoughts so compelling, they can affect your self-confidence and how you approach life. If you want to think like an athlete, remember to celebrate only the positive experiences and learn from the negative ones.
Soumeya says you should never let negative thoughts distract you, because otherwise, you’ll be starting off toward your goal on the wrong foot. In the final minutes before a fight, she lets the vision of victory take over her mind, not stress, and she thinks about her past accomplishments.
Build a solid foundation of self-confidence and mental toughness brick by brick. Although no direct correlation between optimism and success exists, there is a sort of connection between pessimism and failure. Start by changing the words you use to describe yourself and your actions and you’ll find that by using positive language, it becomes even easier to build confidence.
Soumeya uses this mantra to keep her moving toward her goals with conviction: “Always dare, sometimes give in, never give up.” Defeat isn’t the end of the line; the most important thing is to keep moving forward.
Taking time out of everyday life and looking inward through meditation is vital. Once you turn it into a habit, this powerful practice can improve your performance and change your outlook on life. Boxing is actually a pretty meditative activity according to Soumeya, because it’s an important part of her life and does her body good on a regular basis.
Everyone has a very different way of doing meditation, but always with a common goal: better performance and wellness in the body and mind.
Meditating isn’t easy, but you can do it anytime, anywhere. Try body scan meditation to help you bring your body and mind together and focus your presence on the now. Create a meditative mantra by choosing something simple that no one else needs to know and repeat it to fortify your mental toughness.
Visualization consists of seeing the action in your mind and engaging all your senses as you do it. As they prepare for a competition, an athlete can spend hours visualizing what they need to do and imagine all the different performance scenarios that could happen.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, visualization involves the same muscles you would use during physical activity, which are triggered by the nervous system at the same rate as if you were actually doing the activity! Repeatedly visualizing your performance in your mind can relieve anxiousness, build confidence and improve your technique and strategy.
The more you practice visualizing, the more your visions will appear real. Ask yourself these questions: Where are you training? What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? What can you touch? What do you want to get out of this situation the most?
Before she enters the ring, Soumeya imagines herself defeating her opponent and winning the fight. This helps her calmly prepare for the upcoming battle because in her head, she’s already won. She visualizes her training and tells herself, “If I can do that again but in the ring, I’m good. I’ve got this.” Visualization is without a doubt one of athletes’ biggest secrets to success.
The difference between success and failure can depend on your mental toughness. If you tend to overlook it, you won’t reach your full potential as you train, even if your physical abilities are outstanding. Unless you practice strengthening yourself mentally, you might find yourself giving up more easily. Believe in yourself, in what you can accomplish and remember to tell yourself every day that you are the only one who can control your destiny. Life is full of physical and mental battles, so try these tips to build mental toughness and face them head-on.