The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics are almost done and you wonder how these elite athletes prepare themselves? Obviously, they spend several years in preparing themselves on different levels: physical, technical, and tactical training. But behind these impressive skills is an arguably even more remarkable mental prowess cultivated through years of training the mind to tune out distractions, reduce stress and anxiety and build the focus and stamina athletes need to achieve optimal performance.
It is often said that sports are 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. Bruce Jenner is a CogniFit believer and a former Olympic gold medal-winning decathlon runner, who once said, “You have to train your mind like you train your body”.
Many Olympic athletes routinely use visualization techniques as part of their training to cultivate not only a competitive edge, but also to create renewed mental awareness, a heightened sense of well-being and confidence. Athletes use visualization techniques to ‘intend’ an outcome of a race or training session, or simply to rest in a relaxed feeling of calm and well-being. By imagining a scene, complete with images of a previous best performance or a future desired outcome, athletes are instructed to simply ‘step into’ that feeling. While imagining these scenarios, athletes should try to imagine the detail and the way it feels to perform in the desired way. With mental rehearsal, minds and bodies become trained to actually perform the skill imagined.
It is a known fact that Olympic athletes cannot win when they are mentally defeated. Athletes who do not have their head on straight can rarely perform in a manner that will prove successful. As such, some athletes add meditation into their sports training to clear their mind. It is simply a process used to train the mind in a manner no different than one would train the body. When the body is strong, it can perform well. The mind is no different. Russian and Bulgarian athletes initiated the concept of neurogenic conditioning – nervous system conditioning – to improve their performance in athletic events. It definitely worked for them as their results indicate. Other athletes the world over began to employ such tactics.
Olympic athletes also use positive psychology methods to consistently achieve optimal performance or as they like to say “be in the zone”. Positive psychology is a branch of psychology whose purpose was summed up in 1998 by Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: “We believe that a psychology of positive human functioning will arise, which achieves a scientific understanding and effective interventions to build thriving individuals, families, and communities”. Positive psychology is primarily concerned with using the psychological theory, research and intervention techniques to understand the positive, adaptive, creative and emotionally fulfilling aspects of human behavior. Elite athletes are able to differentiate themselves from their competition, based upon the psychological skills they hold, develop, and are able to apply effectively. Athletes must strive for performance excellence and personal excellence as well, with a positive mindset identified as making a vital 1% difference to performance.
You don’t have to be vying for a gold medal to benefit from training your brain. Try CogniFit’s specific brain training program for sports today!