Strength and conditioning for the mind

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Physical fitness is one of the most common forms of personal development which many people invest in and actively work on, on a daily basis.

People engage in sport and fitness activities for a variety of reasons, but largely they all relate to the
want to ‘better oneself’ in some way, shape or form.

Engaging in physical fitness and exercise takes physical strength of course, but it is also a huge mental game. Many people’s sporting success is limited by their self belief and mindset, more than by their actual ability to run the distance, or push the weights.

nicky-feltonOne of the biggest mental challenges both in sport and everyday life, is our self talk. Self talk is essentially the way we speak to ourselves in our heads, and this can be both positive and negative. All day we chat to ourselves internally; debriefing situations and thinking our thoughts. In fact, we do it so subconsciously that we often don’t recognise what we’re saying to ourselves.

Identifying what kind of things you tell yourself and your body is incredibly important, as the words we use in our heads are very persuasive. We are our own biggest critic and therefore our self talk can get quite negative – for me, specifically when I’m exercising.

On my daily run, my self talk will tell me all kinds of things along the lines of, “you’re so unfit”, “you can’t do this”, “you’re never going to get fitter”, “you should give up now”. I suspect you can relate… and I bet you know how hard it is to keep going when your mind is telling you these things.

Being aware of your negative self talk is the first step to being able to change, or challenge it. Once we become aware of what we saying to ourselves subconsciously, there are a number of ways to change it, so it becomes positive.

First, it’s interesting to identify where our self talk is coming from. Our bodies hate being uncomfortable and so do our minds. When we’re out of our comfort zone, both our body and our mind do all they can to get us back to that comfort zone. So essentially, negative self talk is simply our body and mind wanting us to stop because it recognises that we’re pushing our own boundaries – which is actually a really good thing, because it means we’re challenging ourselves and growing. Knowing this means that we can challenge our negative self talk head on because we know that what it’s saying isn’t true.

The issue with self talk is that we’re very persuasive and we tend to believe whatever we tell ourselves, even if it’s total rubbish! One great technique to tackle negative self talk is having the ability to externalise it.  Imagine if someone else was saying out loud what you’re saying to yourself in your head – would you believe them? NO.! You’d probably stand up for yourself and argue with them…which is exactly what you need to do with your self talk.

Building mental strength is incredibly important for all aspects of our lives, and limiting negative self talk is an essential part of this. Start identifying your negative self talk, and challenge it – that kind of negativity doesn’t deserve a spot in your mind and doesn’t serve a productive purpose.

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