This article was written by Stevie Gee, a personal trainer, fitness coach and a GB Master Athlete at 400m.
He competed for Northern Ireland in the early 1990s, and aims to run at the European Vets Athletic Championships, next year’s World Masters Championships in Lyon M45 over 400m.
Click here to read all of Stevie Gee’s past articles.
Click here to read The Winning Mind: the Rick Beardsell Story (Part 1)
The Winning Mind: the Rick Beardsell Story (Part 2)
Rick and Andrew’s story of triumphing over adversity perfectly illustrates the type of attributes that make up the Winning Mindset. The both displayed the belief, courage, determination, vision, composure, positivity, innovation and confidence necessary to win. And developing these empowering qualities all begins in the Mind.
The term Mind over Matter simply means that when the mind is given the optimum stimulus, it can override the normal limitations that restrict the physical body to perform acts that it wouldn’t normally be able to execute.
The first objective is to discipline the mind to block out any internal or external distractions and completely concentrate on the specific objective to be accomplished. One of the most important components of achieving mind over matter is the mastery of one’s fears. Fear can take many forms. Fear of Failure; Fear of People’s opinions; fear of rejection.
Fear has been described as False Experience Appearing Real. And, more often than not, the reason many find it difficult to perform to their full potential is because this fear has been allowed to control their outlook and thus affect the desired outcome.
When it comes to Sport, many athletes are able to perform brilliantly during practice and training but, as competition approaches, anxiety starts to manifest itself in the subconscious which translates into the physical realm and negates the individual’s outlook towards competition. It can happen to the best of us. But, thankfully, there are proven coping techniques and methods that be learned and deployed to counteract how one perceives competition and enable one to achieve an optimal performance in any given situation on competition day.
Cognitive Strategies and Athletic Achievement
Positive Imagery or Visualisation –Simply by mentally rehearsing a positive outcome to a given task by creating or recreating an experience in your mind. Focus on how you would like to perform on competition day, reinforcing the imagery with positive words like: fast, focused, powerful, confident, relaxed, enjoyment, energised, staying power, fearless, courageous, brave etc…
Due to the neuroplasticity of the brain, the mind alters with every action, thought process and interaction we engage. By incorporating imagery the mind uses what you positively visualise to override the neural pathways that normally activate a negative experience or emotion.
The subconscious is unable to differentiate from fact and fiction. As Bruce Lee said: “As you think, so shall you become.” Think of the victory, visualise it as vividly as you can as often as you can and your mind will focus on that outcome and only that outcome.
A powerful technique to activate this winning mindset is to remind yourself that it is the LOVE of your sport which is stronger than your fear. Imagine yourself relaxed and in your element and that you are competing to not necessarily win but merely replicating your best performance in training.
Recreate the emotions that you experience when you are at your best. Befriend competitors and be thankful that you are in the company of similarly minded people who are there for their love of sport not fear of sport. Welcome the competition environment. Welcome the warm-up area. Welcome the announcer’s voice throughout the stadium. This is what you have trained for. Embrace the challenge of bringing out the best in yourself and others around you. That’s True Sportsmanship. And that’s true freedom from self and negative introspection.
This may seem like an esoteric approach in a world dominated by sets, reps, percentages and timings, but it works. When I awaited in the call room before I competed at the World Indoors for GB M40 in the 400m in March 2014. I was so happy to be there. I looked around at my competitors and observed their mannerisms as they anticipated being called out onto the Track. I remember seeing those who were visibly nervous and I said to them: “Guys, we are all here because we love running fast. It’s a pleasure to be in your company. Let’s Do This. No Fear. May the best man win.”
Smiles erupted, faces visibly relaxed, hands were extended and I remember a Canadian Competitor, replying: ”Let’s all be thankful we are here and in our health and let’s all enjoy this moment. We ain’t getting any younger.”
Everyone went out and ran their hearts out on an even playing field with NO FEAR. The race was still very competitive, but at least we all brought out the best in each other, when the gun went off and genuinely walked away with our heads held high win lose or draw until the next time.
In next Article we will be delving deeper into sports psychology and competition in an interview with Michelle Thomas Former GB International Sprinter (coached by Ron Rodden) and Returning to Athletics as Master Competitor.
About the Author
Stevie Gee is a personal trainer, fitness coach and a GB Master Athlete at 400m. He competed for Northern Ireland in the early 1990s, and aims to run at the European Vets Athletic Championships, next year’s world masters championships in Lyon M45 over 400m.