As we all know, mental strength and concentration are crucial during competitions. Very few vaulters train mentally, but it is a very important point to perform: You have only a few seconds to convince the judges, so better be focused! But how can you improve your concentration? How to deal with enormous pressure?
In the end, it’s not only about physical conditions. In many occasions your mental skills make the difference.
“Mindset is such a huge part of performance. […] everyone is athletic and skilled with an incredible body, so what’s the difference? What separates [athletes] from one another? Mindset. More and more people are realizing this now.”
Graham Betchart, NBA mental skills coach
Important mental training tools include:
- 1. BE REALISTIC:
Set clear and realistic goals (long- and short-term). Most of the time, we want to challenge ourselves and we set unrealistic goals. Be kind with yourself and patient overall. You must know your limits and possibilities.
- 2. BE POSITIVE:
Use positive and energetic language to motivate yourself (this also includes body language!) and to encourage positive thinking. It always helps to say things out loud to memorize them – even if that means to talk to yourself.
- 3. VISUALIZE THE MOVEMENTS:
Visualization is the key: How does the perfect execution of the exercise look like and feel like? You have to see and understand the perfect scissors to do it perfectly yourself.
- 4. FOCUS:
Mental presence: Practice to be present in the moment. Often we are somewhere else with our thoughts and we don’t even notice it.
- 5. MEDITATE:
Focus on a specific image and control your breathing. It will help you to control your emotions and anxiety in crucial moments. Later in competition you focus on the same image in order to revive that feeling and concentrate. Marina Josten Dupont, former coach and lunger of Nicolas Andreani always highlights the breathing, this is the secret of many champions.
Try to use these tools and strategies to develop your skills during mental training sessions and to be able to use them during training sessions on the horse and later in competition. If you are interested in further information on that topic, we recommend you to read the book The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive by Jim Afremow.
But your mindset is not only important before and during competitions. It’s more powerful than you think!
A study from Brian Clark (Ohio University) showed that just thinking about exercise might make us stronger. He and his colleagues worked with 29 volunteers and wrapped their wrists in surgical casts for one month. During this month, half of the volunteers thought about exercising their immobilized wrists for 11 minutes a day, 5 days a week. They just mentally focused on pretending to flex their muscles. The other half didn’t do anything. When the casts were removed, the volunteers that did mental exercises had wrist muscles that were two times stronger than those that didn’t do anything. Impressive, right?
Unfortunately, your mind alone cannot build muscles, but it might help.
Your body and your mind are connected. So make sure to activate them both so that they can perfectly work together!
> How do you stay mentally focused? Share your techniques and tips with us!