Athleticism and Mental Toughness Begin with Awareness

Truth be told, when I first began working out with Ryan Morrissey at PEAK, I think I initially felt like he was “nitpicky.”  Did it really matter if my feet were perfectly place such that I was standing over the arch of my foot, engaging my glutes and my core?  (The answer is “yes”… it actually did matter).  I finally came to realize that by doing everything right, I was beginning to develop new habits that were transferring over to everything I did.  The awareness gained in PEAK’s weight room carried over to how I went up and down stairs, and had me feeling much more solid on my bum knee.  And bit by bit, in my work with Ryan and Tory Tolson, I found that “functional fitness” was not just about simple movements like doing stairs or lifting your kid in the air, it is about having efficient stable movements in everything we do!  The awareness gained, knowing when certain muscle groups are engaged, leads to the patterning new habits over the old ones. This has been a big part of my journey in re-becoming an athlete.

PEAK’s trainers are constantly focused on how to develop awareness of muscle groups that we might lack or have lost awareness of.  Tory and I had a chuckle one day over the muscle spasms I had in my glutes the night before, as I had been rediscovering these muscles (more on this in the next blog….).  The tail end of this winter has been glorious.  Not only has the sailing been good, but so has the skiing!  One weekend at Liberty, I tagged along in my son’s ski lesson.  His instructor Lewis gave him drills, and started giving me instruction… tuning into my feet, my glutes, and my core…  I was having deja vu, feeling like I was back at PEAK.  The following weekend, I was lucky enough to hit up some Vermont skiing, and continued using what I learned.

Through these processes, I had an “epiphany” that training, skiing (or whatever sport), and the mental game of sports and life can ALL be meditative experiences!  As we engage in “interoception” (sensing the internal state of the body), it becomes easier and easier to replicate the kinds of movements we want.  Interoception also provides messages like a “gut reaction.”  I often work with clients to tune into physiological stress responses such as changes in muscle tension, sweat, skin temperature, heart rate variability, and respiration.  Awareness of these typically more unconscious factors of wellness and performance allows for a greater influence over stress responses and often influence over the initial thinking that precipitate the body’s response.  This leads to more adaptive thinking habits.  In a sense, it leads to mental toughness.

2018-03-27T16:26:38+00:00 By |Life, Other, Performance, Sailing|

About the Author:

Tim holds Masters degrees in both counseling/sport psychology and in clinical psychology, and a Doctorate in counseling psychology. He has worked with high performers at several universities (including the US Naval Academy), an elite sports camp (IMG Academies), and with US Army personnel (Center for Enhanced Performance at Fort Lewis). Tim gives workshops for sport psychology practitioners, coaches, and athletes for many organizations including the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, the Performing Arts Medicine Association, USA Gymnastics, and US Sailing.

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