Providing the Mental Edge, part I
Strength and conditioning, or more generally physical preparation, has been around since the dawn of man. Since that time humans have searched for a leg up on the competition, whether it be wooly mammoth for the village’s survival, or an opponent in the first Olympics. Although perhaps unknowingly, and certainly sans fancy terms like the ‘Physical Stress Theory’, man was adapting to the physical demands life was placing on him.
Only in more modern times have we begun using the science of physical preparation to reach new human feats. The Physical Stress Theory drives strength and conditioning – think Milo of Croton, periodization, and conditioning progressions. With humans breaking records and reaching peak performance at unprecedented rates many believe, and possibly fear, that man’s physical improvements may cease. We’re not limitless creatures … or are we?
Thanks to human ingenuity, each time it’s believed we reached a limit we find a way to push that limit just a bit further out. A sub-four-minute mile eluded the record books until Jim Ryun in 1965; a thousand-pound squat was thought impossible until Lee Moran officially hit it in 1984. We continue to refine training programs and regimes set by set or rep by rep until we’ve found the best way to train.
Then comes along another aspect of training that had yet to be considered – enter psychology. Wait, what? Psychology in PHSYICAL preparation? Talk about counter-intuitive.
But yes, the psychology of sport and learning how our mind can enhance or impede our physical performance; and the best part is we have the ability to choose its impact on performance. With so much of the physical science having been explored, we’re only recently discovering the possibilities of the psyche’s impact on performance.
Strength and conditioning programs have become standard practice throughout the world but only a few sport psychology programs have appeared to complement the physical preparation. By no means will mental preparation for sport outweigh the physical preparation, but without the mental aspect, you’re training muscles when you could be training athletes.
In this ten part series we’ll explore the foundations of sport psychology and how to teach athletes to master their mind for optimal performance. Whether you’re a coach looking to develop your team’s mental performance, an athlete looking for that edge over competition, or just looking to improve the control you have over your own mind, read on because this series is for you.