When you take 20 athletes of equal ability and give ten of them mental training, the ten with mental training will outperform the others every time. Whether you’re an athlete in competition, a health enthusiast, or new to sport and fitness, Sport Psychologist Dr. Haley Perlus shares how professional athletes mentally train to maximize results—and how you can apply these insights to your life. Read on to empower yourself to take control of your mind, overcome fear and doubt, and realize your true potential.
The truth is it doesn’t matter how educated you are about the dos and don’ts of food and fitness if you don’t have the mindset to follow through on your intentions. Mental toughness, specifically an attitude of gratitude, is an important part of high performance.
The best way to explain what it means to have an attitude of gratitude is to focus on the Gratitude Five: Love, Labor, Learn, Laughter, and Let Go.
For optimal performance, one of the greatest shifts in perceptions is moving from an attitude of what do I have to do to what do I get to do. Although you may have begun your nutrition and fitness program for extrinsic motives such as qualifying for a race, when you pay attention to the strength, enthusiasm, courage, and confidence you experience, you can develop a deep love for your healthy behaviors and, even more important, a profound love for yourself.
One way to shift your perception about food and fitness is to replace old damaging thoughts with new, empowering, and loving thoughts that can help keep you in an attitude of gratitude and enhance your performance. For example, replace My body was not meant for yoga with Yoga challenges my mind and body to experience amazing things! And replace I hate spinach but I have to eat it to Eating spinach makes me feel good!
Any worthwhile performance goal requires you to fight for it. Top performers understand that to experience ultimate pleasure, they often endure some discomfort. What helps them to cope with the pain is acknowledging it exists, accepting that it’s part of the process, and being grateful for it because it is a sign they are on the right path to personal excellence.
A good friend once told me that, in every training session, he experiences a moment of struggle. It’s in this moment when he says to himself, “why am I putting myself through this?” He then reminds himself of his performance goals and immediately shifts his perception to one of gratitude for the struggle. It’s the struggle of that last pull up, mile run, or five more second hold, that can make your goals a reality.
Many of my clients explain to me that learning about fitness and nutrition is overwhelming and confusing. They want someone who will tell them what to eat and how to train. How about you? Would it be easier for someone just gave you a set menu each day, told you how to move to exert the most calories, and sent you on your way? Although I understand the desire, I also know that, without a clear understanding of why you eat and train a certain way, the behavior of simply following someone else’s instructions will not help you to get results that last.
Every day, you can visit the Vega Learning Center for new information about plant-based nutrition, fitness and more. I recommend setting a goal to sift through the content and pick one tip to experiment with. Focusing on one tip to implement can help eliminate feeling overwhelmed and make room to truly appreciate what you just learned and how it can help you to improve your performance.
I know that your health and performance is serious stuff. That said, when you do make a mistake, appreciating the experience and using laughter to move through it can help you to bounce back quickly. Humor is a main ingredient for health, happiness, and resilience. The next time you find yourself feeling awkward in a new yoga pose, tripping on your trail run, or burning a new recipe in the oven, do your best to be grateful for what that experience has taught you. Laugh at yourself to make the moment less intense. Then, you’ll be able to not just move forward quickly, but also with a fun story to share with others.
Professional athletes are obsessed with their performance, but most are equally grateful for the time off the field. Your performance goals are important – as they should be. When it’s time to eat and train, exert maximum effort towards your goals. Then, leave your nutrition and training “on the field” and carry out the rest of your day with equal enthusiasm, dedication, and gratitude.
The Gratitude Five provide a great overview of what it means to have an attitude of gratitude that can help your performance. Experiment with one today and observe how it can influence your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and ultimately help your ability to achieve optimal results!