14 Training Tips From Top Sports Psychologists

In 1954, when Sir Roger Bannister shattered the four-minute mile record, it was recognized as the highest accomplishment a human could make.

Currently, more than twenty American runners surpass that marker annually. It has been shown that training can show improvement in both physical and mental abilities.

Enduring the competition with accomplished athletes or as a recreational activity, staying composed under pressure, continuing to concentrate, and keeping faith in oneself are all keys to reaching one’s potential.

This article examines the practices and advice of sports psychologists that can empower athletes to play better, conquer impediments, and make consistently strong performances.

1. Staying motivated while training

Adhering to an exercise program can be challenging, particularly when the competition is still a long way off.

Assess your involvement in the sport by looking at the role it has on your life, what benefits can be gained from it, and what originally inspired the individual to partake. That’s from an Olympic Committee sports psychologist.

Many athletes begin engaging in competitions merely for fun but soon transition to trying to attain a certain goal, such as finishing a race in a specific amount of time or lifting a given amount of weight. Find a way to connect it to the original source of happiness.

It is essential to understand the distinction between end result objectives, such as completing a race within a certain timeline or rank, and achievement goals, the ambitions that you set out to achieve as you progress.

Your main focus should be on the tasks that need to be completed in the present, such as what needs to be done today or in the next seven days. You can beat any feeling of staleness or lack of motivation by setting small daily and weekly goals for yourself. Doing this will make you feel like you’ve achieved something each day you train, not just after a successful race.

2. Avoiding burnout

Feeling particularly unmotivated? Perhaps you’re fried on tri.

When someone has become bored with their physical activity, they usually neglect to get the necessary rest and recovery necessary for the best results. They are preoccupied with the end result rather than focusing on the steps necessary to accomplish it.

Once things start taking off, uncertainty, worries, and apprehensions could start coming up during practice times when you seem distant from your desired end results. Make sure not to overlook establishing daily and weekly goals.

If you come to the point where there is no going back, it may be time to take a break. Haberl recommends that when you’re feeling exhausted, the initial step is to take a break from your activity. After taking a break, it is time to rethink what goals you hope to achieve in triathlon and your own perception of yourself in the sport.

3. Race Anxiety

Worrying about achieving a goal time can be paralyzing. Having anxiety about having a flat tyre, car trouble, malfunctioning goggles, accidents, exhaustion, and pains are all things to worry about.

Athletes should move into a mode of autopilot in the race, shifting their mindset to something that is not conscious but rather a part of their subconscious.

Athletes need to get ample rest a few nights before the competition.

“Assume that you won’t have an adequate amount of rest the night before the event, but don’t be concerned as you have a backup plan,” be certain that all of your equipment and nourishment is prepared and ready to go ahead of time the evening before. It would be wise to plan ahead and allow yourself more time to get to the event, if you rush, the anxiety response will be set off. “Breathe through it.”

4. Swim anxiety

One can certainly receive a kick to the face. Enough said.

“Recognize that this is a contact sport. It is important to mentally prepare to brace for a challenge beforehand.

Picture yourself in your mind facing obstacles such as fogged-up goggles, a shove in the back, and a jab in the side – imagine the worst conceivable circumstances you might experience while swimming so that if they actually happen during a race, you’ll already know how you would handle them.

Also, Walker says, to pay attention to your body temperature. She suggests that when feeling cold, it can be easy to misinterpret the feeling as anxiety, and then become anxious when you are just cold. It’s a vicious cycle.

5. Maintaining focus while racing

Did my mom come to cheer? Is that my mom? Squirrel!

It is necessary to come up with a plan for the upcoming race as the first step. A portion of the strategy should concentrate on a determinate period in the competition that you anticipate will be demanding. Haberl emphasizes the need to stay conscious of any ideas that may detract from one’s confidence, explaining that paying attention to the event is key to maintaining good form, which can help with confidence. Focusing on your technique will be much more beneficial for performing well in a race than arguing with yourself in your thoughts.

Also, try using cue words while competing, any distracting feelings or loss of confidence should be acknowledged before quickly readjusting the mindset to return to the state of flow.

In essence, you don’t need to leave the interstate entirely when you exit; you should just get off at a rest area and hop back on. Memory aids, such as phrases or mantras, can assist you in remaining attentive and present.

Repeat a few wise words to yourself whenever you require them. You could try to encourage yourself, such as saying “Relax” on the swim or “Steady and even” on the bike, to reach an ideal pedalling pace and strength.

Van Vlerken recently had the word “gratitude” inked onto her left wrist as a reminder of her good fortune to be able to compete. She has also put up track markers that are displaying the same motivating message.

6. Keeping up race-day confidence

Stay positive, if you entertain pessimistic ideas in your head, they tend to be more precise and factual.

Whenever an unfavourable thought pops into your mind, your muscles will become tense, and you will not be able to display the same level of physical performance as you did in practice, according to her.

Anytime an adverse thought pops up in your mind, switch it out for a positive one. Got a flat? That’s OK, you’re a whiz at fixing flats! Walker suggests reminding oneself of the parts of the body that bring pleasure.

Or try counting your steps. Break the race up into segments and think of it as one big workout session. Remind yourself that you will transition to another phase of the race soon.

Thomas says that he can recall particular training occasions when he had a really successful day and that this success was attributed to the fact that he added a sports psychologist to his training armoury in 2013. This year I ran a mile at the end of a long interval run during Wildflower, and it took me 4 minutes and 38 seconds. Throughout my run, I kept saying to myself, “There’s no way anyone can do that!”

7. Disappointment

You devoted a whole year to preparing for your race but did not reach the results you had hoped for.

Haberl claims that every race is educational and should be viewed as an opportunity to gain knowledge and not as a failure. Examine the point where your concentration, commitment, and excitement for the competition decreased, and use it as a learning experience.

Walker had once collaborated with a triathlete who had desired to go to Hawaii for a long time. When at last he competed in Kona, he ran so poorly that he was unable to complete the race.

Walker says that afterwards, he was deeply unhappy as he had placed a great deal of effort into reaching this point. How to recover from a similarly big upset? “Make sure you’re talking to other people, finding support. Then go ahead and set that next goal.”

Carr emphasizes that an admirable attraction to sports is that when you’re striving to reach your goal, you are already achieving a lot. Simply participating in the competition is an achievement in itself.

8. Injury

Not participating in sports can be emotionally exhausting, especially when social events centre around athletic activities—which results in a decrease in endorphins, competition strategies and physical fitness.

Haberl suggests examining the experiences of other athletes who encountered the same injury and seeing how they managed it.

Haberl suggests that you should exercise the same amount of commitment in your recovery process as you would when you would have been preparing to train previously. One should make objectives that fit their injury, according to Carr, “without letting it cause a sense of disappointment or a negative outlook due to something out of their control.”

9. Reflection

Honesty is crucial to reflection. The athlete should be aware of and analyse their strong and weak points to regulate their performance.

By making a list, scoring each item on it (from 1-10) in terms of where the athlete currently is (as indicated in the “Now” section of the table) and where they want to reach, it is possible to direct their mental focus and physical training, growth, and improvement.

Discovering what needs to be enhanced allows for boosting the sense of power and eventually devising inspiring, activity-based ambitions.

10. Relaxation techniques

It is not necessarily a bad thing if an athlete is anxious about a competition. The competitors or participants are invested in the competition or event.

When nerves negatively affect a person’s performance, it can be a troublesome situation for them. One must take on the task of not letting stress get to them, embracing the struggle, and doing the best one can.

First, it is important to distinguish between two approaches to coping:

  • Problem-focused
    Used when preparing to face pressure within the athlete’s control, such as a race or a match. It is possible to form a plan of action to reduce the impact.
  • Emotion focused
    When athlete changes how they interpret or react to a high-pressure situation.

Both addressing issues head-on and focusing on one’s emotions can be advantageous in reducing anxiety and encouraging relaxation. Here are two examples:

Meditation and mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are very effective methods for dealing with emotions that allow athletes to handle the tension in their minds.

Mindful awareness of the self and exploration of the Five Senses can be very beneficial and user-friendly forms of self-relaxation which can be included in one’s practice and contest.

Pre-performance routines

Before competing, certain rituals are unbelievably helpful for tackling stress and creating a tranquil atmosphere that will prepare one for the game.

The athlete should write down a list of steps they need to take to be successfully prepared for a game or tournament. Developing patterns of behaviour can be highly advantageous because it shifts the focus from merely contemplating taking action to carry out that action.

11. Focusing

Telling yourself, or someone telling you, to focus more may provide a motivational boost, but it does not provide the necessary knowledge of how to concentrate or what to focus on.

When you are trying to complete a task, it is important to stay focused on the job at hand and block out any external distractions. Your focus should be narrowly tailored to your current job and location. Having a clear objective in mind that can be divided into smaller tasks that can be completed is beneficial.

You can think of attention as a spotlight; its focus can attend to one of the following (Strycharczyk & Clough).

  • Narrow (one aspect of the gameplay) versus broad (the entire game)
  • Internal (attending to your performance) versus external (considering the environment)

12. Goal setting

Mental toughness experts Doug Strycharczyk and Peter Clough highlighted setting goals as an efficient way of motivating someone to reach valuable or important objectives.

Goals not only give purpose and a course of action, but they also motivate and excite as they are worked toward. At times, the enormity of goals can be overwhelming. Formulate your objectives using the SMART system to ensure that they are distinct, measurable, attainable, reasonable and have a designated space limit.

Utilize the SMART intention pacing framework to aid competitors in shaping and working on desired objectives that attune them to the applicable thing at the applicable time.

13. Fostering mental toughness

It has been posited that mental fortitude is essential to one’s well-being, conduct, and solitary and collective effectiveness.

It is possible to nurture a resilient mindset for anyone who desires it, even if there may be a component of it that is inherited. Three factors can help enhance mental toughness (Crust & Clough, 2011):

  • Providing a supportive yet challenging environment
  • Having an appropriate support network
  • Encouraging reflection and experiential learning

While certain mental toughness strategies, such as positive thinking, visualization and goal setting, can be learned, it is often more efficient for someone to gain this resilience through experience rather than being taught the theory. Therefore, learning mental toughness is particularly suited to coaching.

Coach can facilitate the growth of mental toughness by helping an athlete to:

  • Recognize what needs to be improved to develop performance
  • Overcome barriers that impede performance improvement
  • Sustain long-term positive changes
  • Develop strategies to maintain potential

The GROW Model (Goals, Reality, Opportunities, Willingness) provides an effective and organized strategy for accomplishing process enhancements.

14. Improving performance

Focus on what you want to happen concentrate on the desired outcome rather than worrying about potential outcomes. If you aim for what you’re attempting to bypass, it is probably unlikely that you’ll achieve your goal.

Rather than attempting to perform while attempting to ignore fear, it is better to act with confidence, giving yourself positive messages such as “Stick with it” rather than “Don’t mess it up.


Billie Jean King, the renowned tennis player, viewed pressure as a blessing instead of an indication that something was wrong. It is essential to view occurrences as chances for success, instead of disasters.

Practising under stressful situations and implementing imagining techniques help one gain insight into the features of reframing by re-enacting how one would react under pressure and convincing them of their capacity to handle the stress.

Trust your talent

Thinking too much can be risky, often leading to the trouble of striving for perfection and being stuck in a cycle of too much analysing. If there is a danger that could take place, switch the attention from the inside to the outside.

Have faith in your abilities and recognize that you are ready. Follow the train it–trust it process.

Step one – Train your talent in practice. Step two – Trust your talent in competition. Step three – Keep repeating steps one and two.

A bit of wry humour is evident in step three, yet this is an essential concept to remember: building trust is necessary for the best performance.


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