Often lost in the excitement of the final races, championship qualifiers, and preparing for the culmination of another season is the realization that, for the tens of thousands of athletes graduating from high school or college and not continuing sport, this is it. While many rowers will no doubt look forward to sleeping in, no more 2k tests, and a life beyond spandex, many will struggle to adjust to a life that does not revolve around athletics and athletic performance. All sports have unique cultures and forge strong bonds between teammates, and many will not find the close relationships that existed between teammates in work, school, or future life.
Sport serves to unite people, give them a common goal, and bind them through shared struggle. Beyond the medals and trophies, this is what makes sport so valuable in a person’s life. When retired athletes look back on their career and what they enjoyed, it’s usually much more about the lifelong relationships and personal accomplishments than it is about the stat lines of number of games won or trophies earned. These deep bonds between teammates who share the incredible work ethic, intrinsic motivation, and dedication are hard to match later in life.
This is also what makes sport so hard to leave, and why retirement from sport can be so difficult on so many people.
Part 1: Goal-setting, progressive muscle relaxation, cognitive reframing, and positive self-talk
Part 2: Visualization, pre-practice, pre-performance, and mental reset routines
We’ll discuss the final two mental skills and wrap the series up with how to put them all together in a training plan for better training sessions and improved performance.
In Part 1, we talked about the basic skills of goal-setting, progressive muscle relaxation, cognitive reframing, and positive self-talk. This article will continue with some more basic mental skills that you can incorporate right away into your training. Remember, mental training is just like physical training in that you can’t just flip a switch and be in shape. It will take time and dedication to improve, and from reduced anxiety to increased performance to improved focus and happiness in sport, the benefits are worth the work.
4. Visualization & Imagery
- Create a positive picture of success in a controllable environment and mentally rehearse your actions to improve focus and familiarity when you do them physically.
Anyone who has rowed or been around rowers can tell you that this is a mentally difficult sport, and maybe you have to be a little crazy to do it. The constant pressure of technical improvement combined with the drive to improve on the ergometer tests and in training can be a lot to deal with, and athletes not equipped to deal with this stress often find themselves burned out after a few seasons. This article series will teach you some basic mental skills that you can incorporate into your own training as a rower or coxswain.
In the long term,
MST can help reduce anxiety and build good mental habits to lay a foundation for race day and tests. Just like in school, you can’t just cram for a few hours and expect to do well on the test—you have to work at it all quarter.
In the shorter term,
MST can help improve performance by reducing distractions, improving focus, and decreasing anxiety. The basis of short-term MST is maintaining a mindset of positivity and not getting bogged down in uncontrollable factors. Control what you can control, let everything else go. (more…)
Injury risk is an inevitable part of life and competitive sport. The first step to developing a positive mindset is accepting this risk and destigmatizing injury should it occur. Getting injured is uncomfortable and inconvenient, but it is a risk that we all take as athletes and active people. In this article, I’ll explain how you can do everything you can to prevent injury and how to keep your cool should injury occur.
I do want to include a disclaimer here to say that sports are often a huge part of people’s lives, personal identity, and self-esteem, as well as a method for coping with stress, and it can be very difficult when an injury takes this away. If you or one of your athletes or teammates is struggling with depression-like symptoms, please refer to a mental health counselor or sport psychology counselor. The Applied Association of Sport Psychology is a great resource and maintains a list of certified consultants.
Control the “Controllables,” Discard What Remains
Maintaining physical readiness to train is at the forefront of every responsible athlete and coach’s mind. Even though we all accept a risk of injury training and competing in sport, injury prevention is a critical part of maintaining this readiness. Here are the core tenets of injury risk reduction that are 100% under your control: (more…)
Last week we talked about false hope syndrome and why, if you’ve struggled to be successful in achieving your goals, it’s likely the fault of your process rather than an inherent personality flaw. Let’s get to fixing your process!
At a time that is practical and motivating for you to make a personal change, here is how to do it. While the timing is convenient for this discussion because of New Years, what follows is advice for achieving any goal, whether self-improvement oriented, health oriented, or for an athletic pursuit. Absorb these articles, let them percolate for a while, then return to them when the time is right for you to make a change.
The whole key to overcoming false hope syndrome is to replace false hope with real action. Set smaller, achievable checkpoints to help you along the path toward realizing your goal in a realistic manner that is designed for long-term success.
The New Years Resolution is a mainstay of holiday culture. It seems like such a great idea. As the calendar turns to a new chapter, so do you. A whole year just stretches out in front of you with endless possibilities. This could be the year for the beach bod, the six-pack, the new diet, the better you. Full of motivation, you come up with a plan, spread the word of your lofty goals to friends and family, and wait for the following Monday (because everyone knows diets start on Mondays). And it never works.New Years Resolutions (NYR) are notoriously “should” goals, not “I want” goals. The social pressure on the back of all the holiday emotions and often-stressful family situations primes the NYR to be a decision made out of guilt, not intrinsic personal motivation. The timing makes little sense from a goal-setting perspective—still recovering from holiday travel season, mid-flu season, and deep in the winter months. None of these are factors that are inherently motivating for change, nor do they make it easy to stick to something even if you are motivated. This sets the first stage for false hope syndrome . (more…)
With the last few head races of fall complete, this article is for the many rowers who turn with mixed feelings to the erg for winter training. RowingRelated wrote a great article here exploring some of the reasons that many rowers are afraid of the erg, the consequences of that fear, and how coaches and rowers continue to facilitate this fear. A crucial observation in the article is this:
“When compared to other endurance sports like cycling, running, swimming, etc., I have not encountered an equal level of disdain for such fundamental mental and physical endurance training. A track runner might complain if he or she had to be on the treadmill all winter long, but the idea would not strike fear into his or her heart…” [RowingRelated]
This is an element of rowing culture that has outright negative physical and mental performance consequences and is 100% controllable by the individual. Coaching education and a cultural shift in rowing away from glorifying the negative parts of the sport are necessary to fully eradicating erg fear at the root, but that is a slow path. This article is for the individual rower who acknowledges his or her fear of the erg and wants to move past it for more productive training and a happier and more balanced mental state. The remainder of this article is based on the premise that erg-fear is a real phenomenon exhibited by many rowers and that this fear is not to be derided, shamed, or celebrated through social media hashtags—it is to be overcome. (more…)