The Physical Side of your Mental Game

The Physical Side of your Mental Game

The mental part of your game has a strong influence on your physical performance. From thinking negative thoughts to setting unreasonable expectations, your cognitions can make or break your performance.

The relationship between the mental game and the physical game is reciprocal. Not being physically ready for training or competition will result in a poor mental performance. Losing concentration, forgetting the course, or getting over emotional about a bad performance can all stem from you not taking care of your body.

When you become physically tired, the first thing to go is your mental game.

As we hit the main part of the competitive agility season here in North America, I want to give you two tips that you can use to make sure your physical game supports your mental game.

Photo by Esther Gibbons.

Tip #1 – Fuel Matters – That’s right, taking care of your nutritional needs are huge when it comes to performing your best. We’ve all heard “garbage in, garbage out”; well that’s true for what you eat too. Eat like crap, perform like crap. Truer words have rarely been spoken.

The sport of agility can offer a few unique challenges when it comes to eating right. First, many competition venues are in rural areas. This make a quick trip to a grocery store for a healthy lunch impossible. And for the most part, you aren’t going to find many healthy food choices from on-site food vendors (although that is starting to change).

Second, with so much excitement and so many things to do to get ready for your next run, nutrition and hydration tend to get forgotten in the shuffle. To reach your best performance, eating several small meals over the day is the best way to go. This provides a consistent level of energy throughout the day and prevents you from experiencing the afternoon energy crash. Having lunch when the event takes a break for an hour in the middle of the day isn’t going to cut it. You should be fuelling your body every couple of hours.

Third, most agility competitors that I encounter, consistently underestimate the amount of water they lose (through persperation) during a full day of competition. This is especially true at outdoor competitions under the summer sun. As a result, they are under hydrated and their body and mind can’t perform their optimal levels.

To help you overcome these challenges, you need to plan. Take a systematic approach; decide on what you’re going to eat and when you’re going to eat it a week in advance of the competition. Think about the barriers you may face (e.g., no fridge, unique dietary requirements) and develop stratigies to overcome each of them. Lastly, incorporate this into your ovearll competition plan. Remember, this can have as big an impact on your performance as proper training of core skills.

Photo by UggBoy.

Tip #2 – Sleepy Time – Getting your zzzz’s is key. Travelling for competitions can also affect your sleep; both quantity and quality. Not getting your rest will impact your ability to maintain concentration, filter out distractions, and control your emotions. And not for the better.

Stick with your regular sleep pattern as best you can. Ideally this will match up well with what you need to do for the competition but that may not always be the case. Target 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Getting too much sleep will also negatively impact your performance.

Here are a few suggestions that can help you get the sleep you need while on the road.

  1. Bring your own pillow.
  2. Control your room temperature.
  3. Use a sleep mask to eliminate unwanted light.
  4. Play some soothing sounds to mask the things that go bump in the night.
  5. Exercise – At least 30 minutes of moderate intensity everyday (but not too close to bed time).

Both these tips I’m sure you will recognize as common sense but many agility atheletes take them for granted. Taking a little time to plan and strategize your nutritional and sleep needs going into a competiton will make sure your physical game won’t leave your mental game hanging out to dry.

Eat, sleep, and be merry… all the way to your best performance.

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