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Mind Training for sports

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mind training

You might be physically fit and strong, but how strong is your mind? In the competitive arena, if you are not mentally tough, you have neglected perhaps the most important determinant of your success, hence mind training is so important.

Mind training is learning to silence all of the superfluous thoughts
you experience when you are trying to concentrate on a specific task.
This might be during sport, a relationship, studying, or even running a
business. By blocking out the waves of unwanted disturbances that flow
through your mind, you will have greater focus and will achieve your
goals more readily.

One of my favourite tennis matches, was the 2008 Wimbledon Final between Raphael Nadal and Roger Federer. There were countless pressure-filled moments throughout the whole match between these two gladiators that tested the mental toughness of these supreme athletes. For me, the ultimate moment came when Nadal earned his first match point.

Nadal led Federer two sets to one, with match point in the fourth set
tie-breaker at 8-7. By this stage of the match, the players had been on
court well over three hours. This is a long time in any arena, and the
players would have been exhausted both physically and mentally. The
momentum was with Nadal, it seemed imminent that he would gain his first
Wimbledon crown in the next moments. This is what happened:


Unbelievably, under the pressure of a rabid Spanish bull, Federer still found a way to consolidate one of the hardest passing shots ever attempted. It was not so much that it was a backhand passing shot hit from the very back corner of the court, but rather the enormity of the situation during which it was manufactured. Wimbledon – the home of tennis, the Federer-Nadal rivalry, Federer’s sixth Wimbledon final, Nadal’s first, and the list goes on.

Despite all the distractions during those moments, Federer was able
to quieten his mind, empty his head of all his thoughts and emotions so
that he could focus entirely on the point. So just how did he do it? How
did he maintain the focus required amidst a noisy crowd, the failing
light, and intense pressure from his opponent?

The answer is to train your mind in the same way you would train your body. All of the professional athletes particularly in the top ranking spots, be they tennis players, triathletes, or golfers, will be engaged in some sort of sports psychology program, hypnosis methodology and/or visualisation routines. It is these techniques that will teach you to familiarise yourself with the multitude of situations that might arise during competition, and how to relax into the moment when nerves would otherwise drive you to failure.

A good place to start learning about mind training, is with Craig Townsend,
director of “It’s Mind over Matter”. Craig has worked in the area of
mental training for sport and personal development over the past decade.

I have used Craig’s material for both tennis and running training. As a chiropractor, I have always been keen on keeping my body fit and strong. My knowledge in this field has enabled me to remain relatively injury free and in great physical shape. My experience playing with high level tennis players however, has taught me that there is more to success in sport than just physical fitness.

Irritatingly, on more than one occasion, I have lost to players who
were terribly unfit and poorly conditioned for tennis. These losses are
always hard to take, particularly when you have put so much effort into
practice on court and time in the gym. Yes, there are many variables
that contribute to the outcomes of a match – natural talent of your
opponent, stress at work or home, old or new injuries, etcetera. If you
are a sportsman though, you are most likely playing in a particular age
group, grade, league or some sort of general standard of play, where
most of the teams or individuals you will face are of similar ability.
So then, assuming all things are mostly equal between you and your
opponents, what is it that will set you apart? How will you win?

The state of your mind is probably the most powerful weapon you have.
By regularly visualizing favourable outcomes, playing over in your head
the countless permutations of events that might unfold during a match
or a race, and reciting positive affirmations to yourself, all of these
habits will ultimately have you truly believe in your ability to win
and/or succeed. This continuous positive reinforcement will ultimately
change your attitude to reflect a determined and confident individual.
Of all the highly talented and successful players I have met and played
with, one thing binds them all – a winning instinct.

I firmly believe in mind training as a means to develop a winning
instinct. In this way, one day you too might back yourself to go for a
low percentage shot like Federer’s backhand passing shot, or some other
such courageous sporting move, and reap the benefits.

Incidentally, Nadal ended up defeating Federer 9-7 in the fifth set.
When there are two players so equally talented in every aspect, on a
given day the only thing that will separate the two will be their desire
to win. Who wants it more?

Finally spare a thought for the likes of Muhammad Ali, Sachin
Tendulkar, Lleyton Hewitt, Tiger Woods, Jackie Joyner-Kersee – there are
so many! What did they all have in common?

*DISCLAIMER: This discussion does not provide medical advice. The
information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and
other material contained in this discussion are for informational
purposes only. The purpose of this discussion is to promote broad
consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not
intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis
or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other
qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding
a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health
care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay
in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.

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