Sports Psychology Can be Used by “Regular People”
Part of my training as a certified coach has been to read and absorb a book called, Your Performing Edge: The Complete Mind-Body Guide for Excellence in Sports, Health and Life by Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter. My goal from the very first chapter was to take the concepts used by athletes and sports coaches, and translate them for use by the “rest of us.”
Below is an article by Dr. JoAnn along with my take on how to use the “3 P’s,” which are the core of the Performing Edge Method, for helping people to heal and recovery from injury, surgery, or both.
Sports Psychology and Peak Performance – How to Create Your Performing Edge with Mental Training
by Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter
Best-selling Author, Your Performing Edge
Free e-Course at: http://www.DrJoAnn.com/
POSITIVE IMAGES: Use your mental training and images throughout your workout to create feelings of speed and power. (e.g., If you’re walking or running and you come to an unexpected hill visualize a magnet pulling you effortlessly to the top). Use visualization before, during and after your training to build confidence and new motivation.
Suppose you are not training for a race, but rather, recovering from an injury that requires extensive physical therapy. Often just the thought of stretching, bending, or putting weight on the injured area can cause feelings of anxiety and fear of doing more damage. Before your next physical therapy session try visualizing yourself doing the exercises as if you are completely healed and pain-free. See yourself easily following the movements of the therapist during the hands-on portion of your treatment. Prepare a mental image of yourself doing the strengthening and stretching exercises correctly and safely. Use this visualization several times before your next appointment.
POWER WORDS: Make positive mental training self-statements continually. Negative thinking is common; everyone has an inner critic. Become aware of these thoughts early on. Don’t fight with them; simply acknowledge their presence, and then substitute positive power words. (e.g., When you’re thinking: “This hurts too much, I want to lie down and die”; say to yourself: “This feeling is connected with getting healthier and doing my absolute best”).
What do you say when you talk to yourself? Do you think something like, “I’ll never feel any better, I’ll always have this pain or this limitation, what’s the point in working so hard when it isn’t helping?” When your recovery has been slow in coming, or marred by setbacks, it is so easy to become discouraged, and that is quite a normal response. Just recognize those thoughts, but then intentionally remind yourself that they DO NOT have to be true. Substitute a negative thought with a positive one. Say, “Even thought this is difficult, I am working to become stronger and healthier every day.” Or, “This pain is not harming me, I need to feel it now, but soon I will be able to do this exercise with ease.” And remember to tell yourself, “I am doing my best to help my body heal and recovery completely.”
PRESENT FOCUS: Practice your mental training by being in the present moment. Remind yourself to stay in the here and now. Let past and future events fade into the background.
Your mind can only focus on one thing at a time, so when you are working on your recovery it is important to focus on what is happening right now. It’s easy to bring up the past and think, “I didn’t make much improvement last time so this time won’t be any better.” Or that nagging worry about the future, “I am afraid this will be as good as it gets.” When you are focusing on past and future, the present disappears. At your next physical therapy appointment or doctor’s visit, try to be fully present at THAT appointment, listen to what is being said, feel what you are feeling at that moment. Of course it is important to ask questions to relieve any anxiety you are having, but don’t automatically assume that “now” is the same as “then” and that “later” will be the same as “now.”