As an athlete, competing in marathons, 140-mile ironman triathlons in 24 degree heat and night ski marathons at minus 14, you could say that I perversely enjoy the mind-body conflict and challenge that pushes your mind to the point of emotional disconnection.
The discomfort of running a marathon in the blistering heat having completed 2.4 mile swim and 120 mile ride across 4000ft of climbs requires more than just a solid fitness level and aerobic endurance. As someone who works with Olympians, success in sport is dependant on mastering elements of your mental wellbeing and approach to life, but isn’t solely something that benefits athletes.
As I noted in a well documented interview, “mindset is usually the last thing to be considered but the key factor required to the win”, this interview was given just after a client had beaten all odds on the bounce back from a career ending injury and highlights the power that we all possess.
A clear mind and mental control is a key skill that requires mastery, when your body is failing and enters into survival mode, all rational thinking falls by the wayside.
When you are bleeding from your arse because your body is shutting down your colon and you are cramping with pain and still have 10 miles to go, ALL physical ‘knowns’ are not considered and you need to quickly opt for mental reassurance.
How do you get through this?
Trial and error has always been something that I have promoted within my clinics, despite the willingness by some to believe that an off the shelf strategy will provide a step by step roadmap to their own successes, there isn’t* a one-suit-fits-all scenario that I’ve been able to apply, despite some very competent candidates and clients, especially when it comes to the removal of unwanted thoughts or breaking through the mental barrier.
…with this being said there is a formula that I am willing to share that will enable you to work on the design and construction of your very own. These are what I use to clear my mind of pain, negative thinking, anxiety and self-sabotage.
I’ve paired the lessons I learned through life experience with the latest neuro scientific evidence.
Acknowledge & Move On.
The key to “optimal inattention” lies in occupying your mind with something else through distraction. We have short-term memories to avoid not just paralyses by information but also to be able to function without the hindrance of past pain, either mental or physical, remember you are held back not by the opportunities shown today but also by the beliefs you’ve inherited.
When you concentrate your attention on one thing such as your foot, you inevitably engage the parallel act of purposefully ignoring other things such as your ear, by harnessing the “power to ignore," people with current pain will have new cognitive tools for reducing their pain by the simple mean of distraction.
How is this useful? The next time that you experience a ‘non-life-threatening-pain’ acknowledge it and move on. Of course this isn’t just a tool that you can use in track and field but in all aspects of life.
Improve Your Connection With Any Of The ‘Lys’ Spiritually, Emotionally Etc.
It is widely accepted, that people who can learn how to manipulate their alpha rhythms in the somatosensory cortex can switch their focus though mindfulness training. Yes, it sounds similar to the above but the evidence is overwhelmingly strong to prove that those who have a deep connection with a ‘greater being’ are more likely to achieve (you can define what a greater being and achievement is).
How to improve the connection?
Mindfulness has proven to assist in the redirection of attention via control of alpha rhythms in the brain, which can help people ignore depressive thoughts. Research into mindfulness showed a decreased neural activity in the area of the brain involved in feeling the location and intensity of pain and increased activity in brain regions associated with attention and the ability to regulate emotions.
Meditation, prayer, silence within ones own mind, for just 15 minutes per day must be worth a shot.
Suppressing Those Past Thoughts.
We know that some things do not come to our mind when we want them to and vice and versa, ask any athlete how much self doubt kicks in when they hit the wall and they’ll tell you how it all went to shit within the blink of an eye. Those who are able to control and cope with negative or traumatic experience have the ability to control their thoughts even when the shit is hitting the fan (think about a solider under fire, still able to attend to their wounded colleague).
The conscious effort of shutting down the remembering system is something that takes time and one that takes a lot of mental control. Controlling your thoughts does sound a little alternative but a brain structure called dorsolateral prefrontal cortex inhibits activity in the hippocampus, a region critical for recalling past events.
Practicing the art of suppression along with replacement is without a doubt one of the most effective tools when facing ‘considered’ failings or challenges.
You Can’t Polish A Turd, Oh Yes You Can!
Although the strategies of using suppression, internal connection and mindfulness are found to be equally effective in improving your ‘productivity’, for some they need a little extra, knowing the tools isn’t enough.
So, if suppression doesn't work, you might want to don your "rose-tinted spectacles" and see it for better than it is. Although seeing things for what they are, acknowledges the actions required to move on, sometimes the weight of the task can seem overwhelming and halt any movement thus remaining and in most cases meaning a spiral to unproductive patterns.
Seeing a marathon as manageable sections, a mile at a time in bite sized chunks is hell of a lot more manageable than seeing every cobblestone along the way. I remember in my first night cross country ski marathon, just 5 miles in becoming quickly overwhelmed with the remaining distance, cold and challenge, but then opting to just focus on the distance boards, deceiving my mind by creating a belief that each offered both the end of the race and total completion.
Small steps to cross the pond, sometimes is better than jumping in one leap.
If you’ve found just one snippet of information beneficial and would like to work on building a bespoke programme to enable you to move forward and overcome your struggles, why not sign up to a one to one session with me Benjamin Bonetti.
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