I’m coach Rebecca Smith. And I’m here to give you my top three mental training practices for summer.
Now that most of us are out of school, that means everything starts to change, right? Everything goes from evening practices to daytime practices. A lot of the time you are training longer hours and doing more conditioning. You’re doing more basics, more drills, and building that foundation. And my favorite part is that you are doing upgrades.
I’ll assume those of you who are not on the gymnastics schedule are still probably working your butt off in the summer. A lot of the athletes I work with love summer because you get to work on new skills. You’re not in competition season anymore. You get to relax unless you’re Simone. Then obviously if you’re heading into the summer Olympics, you’re not relaxing. But everyone else, us normal folks, we’re relaxing a little bit. We’re getting excited, we’re having fun.
But there’s this incredible missed opportunity for those of you who do not factor in mental training in the summer. So I’m going to give you my top three mental training practices for summer that I would love for each and every one of you to implement right away so that you can make the best out of this summer. Not just physically but mentally.
So what do coaches do in the summer? They work you hard. It is like the conditioning is tripled. You figure skaters. You’re doing off ice. Everything is going heavy and hard. And it’s like they really want to make you sweat. They probably want to make you cry. They want to push you to your limits.
Why? Because you don’t have the stress of competition. So you don’t have to focus on fine tuning and the stronger you get in the summer, the bigger skills you’re going to be able to pull off in the fall and the winter.
But then I noticed this thing happens where everybody flocks to me for mental training around November. Kids are starting to freak out because they’re like, “Season’s coming and I am physically prepared, but my mind is working against me. I can’t go backwards. Why do I all of a sudden in November lose my series?”
I hear that all the time. And then people come to me November, December, January, and they’re like, “Help! Six weeks until competition. Even though she’s physically ready, her mind is hijacking her.”
So I am going to give you this public service announcement:
Do these three things now so that you don’t have to have ‘Nervous November’ and so that you are already mentally strong, just like you’re physically strong. Please don’t wait until November to start doing these things.
What we want to do is strengthen our mental stamina, just like we strengthen our physical stamina so that our minds are strong in the fall. Not just our bodies; your body doesn’t matter if your mind can’t follow suit.
It’s like Simone Biles – she’s an amazing athlete! Well guess what? In 2013, she was a total mess. She was falling apart. She got pulled off of vault. Her coach wouldn’t let her vault because she was hit or miss. She was physically capable. We all know Simone Biles can physically do a vault, but she had to train her mind. So she had to get pulled out in season to do this.
Okay. Enough about that. I’m going to get off my high horse here. And I’m going to tell you my favorite three practices that you should be doing right away so that you don’t have to have the Simone Biles’ meltdown of 2013.
Mental Training Practices For Summer: Number One – Work On Mental Stamina
One of my favorite ways to do this is to do something called mindfulness practice. So think about if you’re standing in line for bars, let’s say. Do you typically just stand and wait and you’re just present and you’re just being, or are you talking to your friends or over here doing a thing? If you’re at a grocery store are you just standing there feeling your feet being present, or are you looking at your phone? Are you talking?
How good are we humans at just being present? We are not that good. Can you even just sit and watch TV without also having a snack and also being on your phone and also having a conversation? We are such multitaskers that it actually takes some serious mental state to be able to have control over your mind and to just be okay.
So something that I love to have athletes do is the mindful warmup. Whatever your first five minutes of workout is – let’s say you’re running laps or maybe you’re swimming laps – you’ve got that very first five minutes. So think about every day for the first five minutes, I want you to try to do your warmup while focusing on only one thing. If you are stretching, you’re not stretching and chatting and zoning out and spacing out and thinking about school. You are just stretching. You are feeling your muscles elongating, you’re tapped in and tuned into your technique, focused 100% on your body.
And if, and when your mind wanders, because it will, you bring it back and you think about breath or you feel your hamstring or whatever is your single point. I want you to choose one thing to focus on during that run. So if you’re running your laps, you’re maybe counting 1, 2, 3, 4 1 2 3 4 1 2, 3 4. And if, and when your mind wanders, you pull it back to that 1, 2, 3, 4, and your monkey mind will want to chat or want to space out or zone out or not want to count. And that mind of yours, you are training it.
You are taming it by doing this because no, it’s not the most fun and exciting thing to breathe. We do it all the time. Why do I need to pay attention to that? But what you’re doing is you’re giving your mind something to do, and you’re holding it accountable. You’re like “Mind, we’re going to be breathing now.” And your mind is like, “Well, I want to do everything else.” And you’re like, “Come back mind, let’s breathe.” And what this does is it gives you the ability to be present.
You must be present to win in sport. You have to be in the moment. Otherwise you’re leaving performance on the table. So it starts to teach you how to be present. It also starts to teach you how to control the wild monkey mind of yours. So if your mind is going to be like, “What if I fall? Oh, no, I hope I don’t fail.” You’re like, “Yeah. Yeah. Come back to breathing pal. It’s okay. Come back to me, come back.” And then you’re back to breathing.
And what happens is if you just start doing this, you’re going to maybe even not like it. I do not like mindfulness practice. It’s not my favorite. Which means I need more practice. Just like, if you don’t like stretching, you need to stretch more. And then you’re going to get to the point where stretching is fine. If you don’t like a certain skill, you’ve got to do it enough to the point where it becomes second nature and easy. And you actually look forward to it because you’re good at it.
Okay. So mindful warmup – find something that you can do for five minutes that’s very simple and doesn’t take a lot of thinking where you can practice being present. You can even meditate if that’s something you’re interested in. If you want to try meditating, I can send you a copy of a recorded meditation that you can use. So reach out if you want any help on that.
Mental Training Practices for Summer: Number Two – Change Your Mindset
A lot of the time in these highly competitive sports athletes end up with what I call a fixed mindset, where they feel like they have only so much talent or only so much time. They feel like things are limited. For example, I have a deadline and I have to do this by this point or it won’t work out. Or I have to get to this level and I need this skill NOW. Or I need this to be better now or they get really frustrated.
This is something that can drive people to get a lot done. And coaches feel like if they coach this way, then they will motivate their athletes and that their athletes will work hard because of the deadline. You get stuck in the ‘it’s gotta be this way and it’s gotta look like that. And it’s gotta be perfect.’ And you’re probably thinking if there’s even any other way to think when you are an athlete, especially a gymnast, because you just have to be perfect. It has to be perfect now or else, and there’s deadlines and you just have to fall in line. That’s the way it’s got to work.
Well, I’m going to tell you that is actually working against you come competition season. Because if you’re the kind of person who gets nervous under pressure, then you got to get good at dealing with those big pressure moments by thinking about them in a different way.
So having a growth mindset all comes from Dr. Dweck. And she has a book called Mindset. If you can switch yourself to that growth mindset, which is essentially in a nutshell that you start where you are, wherever that is. You don’t judge it. Here I am today, working on this skill. I’m doing it on this progression. It’s not about where you should be, or shouldn’t be, you just are. And then you get a little better because you inherently believe that effort will get you everywhere. And that it’s just a matter of time that progress will prevail and that you don’t have to have anything figured out perfectly ever.
You just start where you are and get a little better. So if you can, right now, take whatever it is that you feel like you have to have by this point and wipe that away. And then go, I am here at point A. This is where I’m at right now in the summer. And I’m just going to try and get a little better today. So we’re staying present. We’re staying in today. And what this does is when you can be good at being present, you are not going to have that same freak out because you’re just going to go in and remember that you are at Point A.
When you can pull your mind back from the brink and just be in today, then you realize there is no crisis. There is no drama in a growth mindset. It’s such a relief. Unless you’re a drama junkie then, well, you can have your deadlines and you’re going to have your freak outs too. That’s fine. But I’m going to tell you, if you can be present, be in today, start where you are, and just get a little better, then you are going to be cool as a cucumber come competition season.
Mental Training Practices For Summer: Number Three – Practice Being In Your Stretch Zone
I remember seeing this little meme; it was a black picture and had a white circle in it. And then inside it, it said your ‘comfort zone.’ So you have your little circle and it knows your little comfort zone. There you are in there. And then right over to the side of it, it says ‘where the magic happens.’ Out of your comfort zone is where the magic happens.
So if you are training physically and doing a ton of conditioning and every time you get to the point where you are so tired and bailed out, then you would not get any stronger. The times when you are actually building muscle and building strength are when you get to that point where you are at fatigue. And you’re like, I don’t know if I have another one in me. And then you do another one.
That’s when you get those micro tears in your muscles that rebuild your muscles back stronger. So it’s those fatigue moments, those stretch moments, where you actually get stronger. It’s the same with your mind. You do need a little stress plus recovery to create that growth so you want to stress your mind a little bit. You want to stretch it. Don’t snap it, don’t break it, but stretch it every single day. You want to get out of your mental comfort zone and ask yourself, “Okay, can I confidently do this?” And if the answer is yes then you ask yourself what’s a little bit more that I can do. What’s a little bit that I can push myself? You want to stretch your comfort zone systematically throughout the summer and the fall.
Your comfort zone naturally contracts a little bit during the season. So if you practice now, then by the time your comfort zone shrinks because you have more pressure on you with the deadlines and having to be perfect, you’ll still be totally solid and good to go on those scary skills.
Here’s a little recap of my top three mental training practices for summer:
I want you to work on your mental stamina by being in the moment and not reaching for your phone and not needing to multitask. Practice just being, especially during a specific moment in your workout such as warmups, where you’re just doing one thing and you’re training your mind to come back to that one thing as much as you possibly can. It might be really hard in the beginning and that’s okay because we are stretching.
Number two is changing your mindset to a growth mindset, which is just all about effort. We’re taking away the deadlines and just start where you are, get a little better.
Number three is all about that stretch zone. So don’t get too comfy. You can get a little comfy but get a little uncomfortable on top of that too.
I know that was a general overview of mental training practices for summer. These are all things that I teach in depth in PerformHappy but I wanted to give you a little taste so you can all get to work. And for anybody who wants to get their mental strength up, I’m offering a few free coaching sessions. So if you want to sign up and get a mental game plan in place and chat with me, I have a few slots available. You can go to CompletePerformanceCoaching.com/consult and we can chat. I will help you come up with a game plan and get you off and running for summer training.