Great coaches know that strong bodies are born out of strong minds—and vice versa—strong minds are born out of strong bodies. We know that mental strength is tied intimately with physical training. For example, the simple (or not-so-simple) act of waking up at 6am to get after your push-ups and wall-sits will result in mental toughness gains. This act of determination also increases in your discipline and focus. The same is true if after a long day of work, you dedicate time on the track or elliptical or to engage in interval training.
As a mental conditioning coach for elite soldiers and athletes, Pete, one of tilt's cofounders, spent countless hours teaching individuals and teams ways in which to enhance their mental toughness. Most often these teaching moments were in the context of a physical workout. This is the most optimal place for mental toughness to develop—a mental toughness learning laboratory!
To be clear though, mental toughness is not merely a byproduct of a challenging workout. Mental toughness training needs to be facilitated by a skilled mental toughness coach. Leaving our mental skills to be trained by a strength coach, for example, is like asking a sport psychology consultant to develop an off-season physical strength and conditioning training program.
The mental skills that a mental conditioning coach brings to any system of training can be a force-multiplier for all aspects of training and rehab. Meaning that the skills can be applied during a workout, on a training table, on the practice field, or during competition. This makes the mental conditioning coach an intermediary through which all coaches, trainers, and players communicate. The enhanced synergy and cohesion on and off the field will make for a more fruitful playing/working experience.
Interested in mental toughness training this summer? tilt offers mental toughness training with certified coaches.
Contact us for more details.
We’ve all experienced being “in the zone.” When in the zone (or as it is called in the research literature—“flow”), we are deeply connected to the moment, and time seems to stop. There is a sense of euphoria and effortlessness. There is no thinking or attachment to the experience and there certainly isn’t any fear. It is a powerful experience! When tapping into the zone, we are amazingly present and dialed into the experience at hand. Unfortunately, sports psychologists and others can’t get you into the zone. They can, however, help in setting conditions for it. To be clear, getting into the zone is a personal experience—one that can only happen by you. Sports psychologists assist athletes in developing the character traits that allow one to ease into flow as well as assist athletes in removing mental obstacles (e.g., fear, doubt, anger, frustration, unhealthy self-criticism) that prevent flow
Entering the zone is rare and happens differently for each individual. However there is an amazing body of research and literature that points to ways each of us can create the conditions for getting into the zone. One such author is Steven Kotler (The Rise of Superman). Kotler details flow triggers—psychological, environmental, social, and creative triggers that allow us to set the foundation for these peak performance experiences.
Below are a few factors that can assist us in entering the zone. These are all directly within our control:
#1- Articulate clearly defined goals. (Know what you are doing and why you are doing it!)
#2- Take risks. (Don’t shy away from that which you desire.)
#3- Narrow your focus. (Flow demands single-minded attention.)
#4- Engage in activities slightly above your skill level. (Our undertakings should be challenging—that is evenly situated between boredom and anxiety—see the diagram below.)
A forefather of flow research, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, the author of the book, Flow articulates that getting into the zone happens when our skills match the challenge. This is emphasized with the diagram below—highlighting the “flow channel”
“Everybody can get faster; but not everybody will be fast" (Lance Walker).
Building confidence mirrors Lance Walker's sentiment. Confidence is a skill that can be learned and cultivated through deliberate practice just like strength, speed, and endurance. We recognize that some performers are simply better prepared or genetically predisposed (probably a little of both) to be supremely confident (i.e., Muhammad Ali). When the pressure is on, elite performers seem to intrinsically know the outcome. This is confidence—the authentic belief that you can achieve success. At tilt, we've compiled some techniques that will help you foster a confident mindset--one that that expects greatness:
Reflect- This practice may be the starting point of every mental skill. Reflecting is the act of spending time with your Self. Ask pointed questions inward: What lights your fire or quenches your thirst? Where is home? Who provides deep-level support? When do you feel most alive? How are you measuring your goals and what is next to be accomplished? Why have you stumbled in…? Reflecting is a common theme for these who are striving for self-awareness. We encourage you to spend a minimum of 5 minutes a day (morning or night) purposefully pausing and reflecting on questions such as these—questions of depth and significance.
Set A Goal (and then set another one)- Confidence is consistent effective thinking…with an emphasis on consistent. But time in that reflective "thinking" space is not enough. Confidence is built upon setting and then achieving goals. Accomplishing even a seemingly inconsequential goal can give you reason to believe that you complete more complex goals. Your beliefs become grounded in these truths once you start achieving success.
Know Thyself- Bruce Lee never walked around looking for people to fight. He did not need to prove his skills by bullying others. Confident performers know that they need not explain or prove their skills. These skills shine when it matters most…
Do YOU! Be YOU!- Confidence is derived from being your best Self. Connecting with your values and acting from that place enhances ones sense of self and confidence. The most confident performers never try to imitate others.
Selective Perception- Confidence is not about what happens to you. It is about how you respond to what happens to you. It is our choice whether we approach each task with (or without) confidence. Just because you have a reason to doubt doesn’t give you the right too.
Our lives go as our breaths go. Literally. If our breathing is chaotic, panicked, and disjointed our performance—and to a greater extent—our lives will follow. Chaos. Panic. Disconnection. It begins with the breath.
When we breathe smoothly and rhythmically, our performance will follow. We will operate with efficiency, rhythm, and connection. Our breathe is our guide. Let’s take a step back and review breathing.
Breathing is one of only two functions of the autonomic nervous system that is both voluntary and involuntary—the other function is blinking. Because our breathing functions under our control as well as an automatic part of our bodies’ operation, it is remarkably important listen to—to be in tune with. When we learn to tap into and control our breathe, we are well on or way to performing—especially under pressure.
Let’s take a moment to practice. Take a moment to inhale deeply with poise and control. Three seconds inhale. (Pause for a moment). Three seconds exhale. Three seconds inhale. (Pause for a moment). Three seconds exhale. Three seconds inhale. (Pause for a moment). Three seconds exhale. Practicing with our breath in this poised and controlled manner can have far-reaching and long-lasting implications. Here are some reminders for your next breathing practice:
However, let’s not expect to focus all of our energy on our breathing during the heat of competition. If we are thinking about controlling our breathe while we are performing, our attention is not where it should be. That's why we practice and harness this strength during downtimes.
After intentional practice, our controlled breathe becomes our default. And when controlled breathing is the default, during the pressure situations of competition, we need not focus on our breathe—we’ve already mastered it and can naturally react with efficiency, rhythm, and connection—cornerstones of optimal performance.
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