[This is a guest blog by our Athletic Intern, Salby Salang, an undergraduate sport science student from NCCU.] Today, everyone is looking for a “magic pill” or supplement to boost their workouts and improve athletic development. While the fundamentals are overlooked, people are quick to spend money and waste time trying the latest supplement advertised on the internet or television. Without a solid foundation, all of the extra stuff is irrelevant.

The mind is one of the most overlooked aspects of exercise and athletic performance. The mind is filled with tremendous potential, unused energy in most individuals. The mental preparation is critical to maximize athletic performance. Whether its play visualizations, conscious muscle innervation, motor pattern training, or self-imaging, where one imagines how they want to look or feel during sport performance. Mental training can raise confidence levels which will in turn increase athletic performance. When you experience success, you have a dopamine response that will encourage new synaptic growth or enhancement. Before you know it, you will need to concentrate less and less on the correct form as your muscle memory becomes ingrained. However, you are now engaging either more or correct muscles with correct form, and so you have just enhanced your overall body awareness, efficiency, and the resultant power of the movement. Mental training is hugely positive. So replace the “magic pill” with mental conditioning supplemented with your physical practice. Most athletes don’t take mental training serious enough to gain the benefits. Don’t be that person, start putting your mind to your muscles and make them work for you.

Here are three tips for mental training:

  1. Picture yourself in Action. Many studies have been done by psychologists proving that this can increase your skill performance. Consider taking at least 30 minutes of your time to train your mind when your body can no longer go and you will reap the results.
  2. Picture yourself facing adversity and struggles. Everyone can picture themselves on the podium receiving the first place trophy but only imagining this is unrealistic. Most people won’t accept failure but you must fail in order to succeed. Once you accept this your success is limitless. Start by constantly reminding yourself what it takes and how it’s going to feel winning the daily battles through practices and workouts. Remind yourself why you are doing this and what’s at stake. During your workouts when you want to quit, train your mind to push past your body’s limit. Your body reacts to your mind’s thought process. So tune up your thoughts and build confidence and your body will follow.
  3. Don’t over think. If you can physically conquer your goals, you should be equally prepared mentally as well. But a lot of times if you over analyze a situation it can backfire. Sharpening your focus allows you to get “in the zone”. Once you get “in the zone” movements become natural and you’re reacting more than thinking. So conquer your mind and conquer your skill! Make time to find a nice quiet spot and focus on nothing but yourself. Your breathing is a good place to start. Every time you find yourself getting distracted by a thought, take a moment to note what you were thinking about, and then go back to concentrating on yourself again. Do this not only before a competition but before practice as well. After practice think back on what you did wrong and picture yourself doing it right. The samurai in Japan learned the importance of this kind of exercise, making them some of the most fearsome warriors in history. Of course this doesn’t substitute for physical training but it is a much needed supplement to your training program. Doing this will give you the advantage and competitive edge you’ve been looking for. Use mind training not only for your performance but for your passion of your sport and you’ll look forward to success everyday you wake up.

At Athletic Lab, sport scientist Dr. Young and his staff provide individualized feedback, both positive and negative, which is imperative your athletic performance.