Mental Focus in Sports

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Training for the Mind:

Race day training is defined as training at the pace you hope to run on race day.  The reason an athlete incorporates this type of mental focus in sports is to practice the rhythm the body will feel at a desired pace.  The body will remember what it feels like to run at the desired pace when race day arrives.
What about race pace training for the mind? How does an athlete incorporate effective thoughts during a race pace training? It starts by understanding that thoughts are like a traffic light.
Red thoughts dwell on what is wrong. Some examples include “I hurt”, “I am tired”, or “this is too hard”.
Traffic LightsGreen thoughts are helpful. “I am strong”,  “I can do this”, “Go”.
Yellow thoughts are neutral, which means non-judgmental thoughts. Examples: counting steps, focusing on a physical task (swinging arms), or breathing.
Knowing that thoughts can switch in an instant it is helpful to create a list of your personal red, green and yellow thoughts.  Once this list is created you can incorporate the green and yellow thoughts into your race pace training.  The red thoughts do not need to be avoided, just recognized, labeled and switched to a yellow (action) or green (I can) thought.

Mental Focus action steps to train the brain:

1. Keep a journal for race pace training days. Jot down the different type of thoughts that arise.
Green, yellow and red.
2. Before you begin the race pace training, prep your mind with your green word(s).  Spend 30 seconds repeating the word over and over.  Feel the word in your body.
3. When red thoughts arise.  Label them as red thoughts.  Find an action to focus on and bring back your green word as a motivation.
Train your body at race pace and invite your brain to do the same and you will see the benefit of mental exercise in your performance.

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