Our team at ATHLETE IQ has provided some WAYS TO BECOME MENTALLY READY FOR YOUR RETURN TO SPORT.
Following on from our articles;
3 main challenges athletes are facing during COVID 19 and 13 ways to limit the psychological impact of COVID 19, we thought it was appropriate to give you some useful tips for you to improve your mental fitness and gain mental clarity as you resume you ‘normal sport routine’. Thus, as things slowly progress in getting back to a ‘new normal’, front of mind for many people’s and athletes is how they are going to fair in returning to sport?
Alongside the excitement and long waited eagerness of starting to train and compete again it’s usual to experience feelings of anxiety, uneasiness and nervousness. These emotions and feelings may come in waves and often they are associated with the uncertainty of what is ahead. Often, they include such thoughts as:
- “Will I be fit enough once competition starts?”
- “What is my fitness level?”
- “Has my diet been good enough in this period?”
- “Am I ready for competition?”
- “Have I done enough work in this period?”
- “Will I be able to play at the same level that I was before COVID 19?”
- “What will training look like with these restrictions?”
- “Will these restrictions have any impact on reaching my goals, my improvement in my sport?”
A great way to gain clarity if you are thinking any of these questions above is too journal the answers down of what you currently feel.
Resilient athletes face reality
When you have answered these questions, make a daily plan and schedule that invoke action needed to highlight any shortcomings.
Its normal and healthy to feel nerves and excitement after a long period of uncertainty.
However, if you’re feeling that your nerves about returning to your sport are affecting your wellbeing and health, here are some simple and effective tips to help in your transition, build resilience and ultimately perform to the best of your ability.
Develop positive responses to change and uncertainty
While no-one likes changes that are beyond your control, it’s important to remember that changes and uncertainty is part of the journey. Using change and uncertainty as an opportunity to learn is a healthy way to deal with emotions that arise in these times. Every successful athlete has faced and overcome hurdles. In doing so, it has returned an improved athlete from it. Look at your sporting heroes and see how they handles change and uncertainty and trace their journey back for inspiration.
Maintain a clean, healthy diet
Nutrition plays an important role in the structure and function of the brain. Hence, what we eat can, therefore, influence how effectively our brains operate. A highly processed diet with poor quality nutrition increases the likelihood of mental health disorders including anxiety and depression. However, a diet high in whole foods, full of natural or minimally processed contents actually has a protective effect on brain and organ health, but also mental health. Maintaining quality nutritional intake can be used to help not just physical health but also mental performance. Below are some tips for healthy eating to show the impact nutrition can have towards optimising mental health and performance in the current climate.
Begin to surround yourself with highly motivated people
Motivation is a mindset of awareness and a drive to tirelessly push forward. It develops persistence, which fuels participation. Instead of searching only for the goal, athletes benefit from the participation itself. Motivation can be found in the little things throughout an athlete’s training, such as increasing intensity or accomplishing daily objectives. However, athletes should know that they will not always be motivated, so they need to develop self-discipline. By being around others who are highly motivated, it will promote you being mentally ready as you return to competition as they will push you out of your comfort zone.
Seek Clarity from your Coach regarding what you want to know
If you have uncertainty surrounding what the future holds for your training and competition in the short and long term, having a conversation with a coach or a sports administrator at your club can shed light on how your club will move forward and what the transition into sport will look like.
Seek clarity from your Coach or Team Manager what the training environment will look like
Asking questions regarding important issues such as; How will you train with restrictions? Where will you train? With who? How many can train in certain activities? Are there changes to how many times a week players are able access to the facility? What will the training phases look like? Seeking information and having sound and constant communication with your coach and teammates is vital for your wellbeing. Don’t feel bad asking questions.
Seek clarity now from your coach and fitness trainers about what expectations they want to see from players
If by chance expectations were not set before, asking what are the expectations when you return you will give you the right information needed for you to put in adequate strength and conditioning sessions for you to place yourself in the best possible position you can to return to training.
When it is available, find out what your competition schedule looks like
Knowing that your season may be shortened or postponed, you will be then be able to implement adequate training regimes outside of your prescribed sessions.
Identify ways on how you can improve daily within the restrictions
Everyone is dealing with the same sort of issues. The better more resilient athletes will look for innovative ways to continually improve. Scarcity creates creativity, so don’t be shy in thinking laterally on how to get better. You should always be looking to improve your
- Communication skills
- Technical ability and efficiency in your sport
- Mental Toughness and fitness
Once all information is learned, write a list of what you need to work and focus on to be in the best physical and mental state to return to sport.
By being really clear and keeping things super simple, you will pit yourself in the best possible position to be ‘in form’ when competing starts. Choosing your top three priorities in specific areas from your list to focus on and set simple and clear achievable goals around them. Create an action plan to achieve these goals, by being self-aware and compartmentalising what is needed to get better. Ask yourself daily
- “What can I do today to get better?”
- “What are you going to do now to achieve the goals you have set?”
- “Did I do enough today to improve and to become ready for the upcoming schedule?”
You can’t manage what you can’t measure – so we advise to continually journal and track your progress each day and week to check for fitness gains or to identify adjustments that you may need to make. Implementing these suggestions and creating super simple short-term goals will keep you motivated and above all it will enhance your mental and physical wellbeing safeguarding a smoother more enjoyable transition back into sport. By always prioritising your mental and physical wellbeing, you enable yourself to be the best possible athlete you can be for yourself, your teammates and your club.
As you begin to take steps to return to a ‘normal life’, training and competition routine, you may find that things are not how they used to be. The way you have done it in the past, typically these things may not work anymore. These changes – your ‘new normal’ – can become a source of frustration, anger or even anxiety.
However, in elite sports, you have to expect challenges. Expect the unexpected, hardship, adversity and disappointment.
They are important to your development and mental toughness capacity. Think of them as an integral, NORMAL and important part of your athletic journey. Allowing failure and uncertainty to flow allows space for success. Understand that no one embarks on the tough road from beginner to champion without encountering a ton of emotional and physical setbacks along the way. It’s actually what makes it worthwhile. It’s in those moments that true greatness lies. Part of being a professional athlete is to handle the hard times and changes beyond your control ‘professionally’. It’s your job as an athlete to embrace these bumps as a normal part of the journey and then use them as a steppingstone to push yourself further along the road. This is called growth. The more you grow, the better, more authentic a competitor and human you will become.
Book in your first free consultation today at athleteiq.com.au