Sports Training: The Mental Preparation!

Millions of athletes spend countless hours training for their individual sports. Having said this, it takes me all of five minutes to discover where these individuals are hindering their progress the most - lack of mental preparation!
Millions of athletes spend countless hours training for their individual sports. They experiment with different training techniques, try new "breakthrough" supplements and even hire trained professionals in their continuous attempt to realize their personal goals. In my own experience, I have encountered many people who are convinced that they just aren't cut out for intense athletic training, or they "just can't make gains."

Having said this, it takes me all of five minutes to discover where these individuals are hindering their progress the most - lack of mental preparation! I know this because not too long ago I found myself in the same boat, which led to much time for self-reflection and the determination to break out of the slump I was in. While I do not claim to be the Dr. Phil of sports training, extensive research and practice has convinced me that training with the correct mindset is half the battle, no matter which sport you are trying to excel in.

Self Motivation

One of the key aspects of proper mental preparation comes from within one's own self. Without being able to motivate yourself to work at a certain task, improving at what you do is next to impossible - which also applies to all things in life worth working for. For example, it is not enough to simply decide in your head while watching football one Sunday afternoon that you want to eventually become an NFL linebacker.

It is critical that you create methods to "pump yourself up" for a training session or workout. Sure, it may seem easy to accomplish this while training with many different people whom you are trying to impress. However, what separates the motivated athlete from the "all talk, no action, I workout when I wanna" type of guy is improving yourself when you absolutely do not feel like it. This is getting up in 10°F weather and going for that run, or pounding through that back workout when no one is there to yell in your face and keep you going. In my opinion self-motivation and passion for your training go hand in hand.

So, before spending countless time and money on training for your sport, ask yourself - is this what I really want to do? Will I be able to motivate myself to give 110% each and every time? If the answer in both cases is yes - go for it! Never doubt yourself, always stay positive and fight the urge to stop or end a run early as every extra inch you go, every extra rep you do is one step closer to attaining your goals. The only one that can hold you back is you!

Some Common Sources Of Motivation Are:

  • Think of your goals as you are training. Now imagine how you'll feel when you reach those goals. Every extra ounce of energy you put in, you will get out of it.

  • As you train, think of what you do not wish to become. This negative reinforcement can really be useful in boosting the intensity level of a workout. For example, someone who has gone from extremely overweight in the past to their ideal weight is constantly motivated by the fact that they never want to revert to their old ways. They never want to be fat again. Another example of this is the father of a friend of mine who is constantly working out to keep himself in tip-top shape. He has been on this routine ever since his father passed on due to heart disease related to obesity.

  • Finally, the easiest one is to realize that as you are pushing yourself, you are striving to improve as a person also. Work ethic does not just apply to sports training, in my opinion, it is also the key to a successful career and lifestyle.

To end the self-motivation section, I'd like to touch base on a particular athlete who in my opinion is one of the most intense and driven players in his particular sport. The person whom to which I am referring is Ray Lewis, All-Pro linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. Now, many including myself are not fans of his on-field antics and celebrations, however no one can argue that there is anyone in the game who plays or trains with the same intensity that he does.

While he is a good athlete, I would not say that he is the most physically-gifted linebacker in the NFL. This being said, it is no secret why he has been a dominating defensive force this year, leading the NFL with 200-plus tackles. With his desire and determination to raise the intensity level, he has transformed himself into a physical specimen and one of the great linebackers of all time.

Mental Imagery

This concept was first presented to me by my father, who has had a large amount of experience in playing competitive basketball, football and hockey throughout the years. Many of my friends have a good laugh when I try and discuss this concept with them but I must say after putting this method to practice for about a year or so, it does in fact make a difference. What this involves is one picturing an event in their mind well before it actually takes place. This is Michael Jordan picturing the game winning shot before the tip-off.

This is Tiger Woods sinking an important par putt in his mind before the round even starts. The list goes on and on, but the fact that mental imagery can subconsciously prepare you for unexpected future situations remains constant. Now, obviously we aren't all professional golfers or basketball players, however the same thing applies to sports specific training.

In terms of weight lifting, the ability to picture that important lift before it takes place can have an immeasurable impact on yourself and your ability to lift the weight. Your mindset can be the deciding factor in your 500-pound squat whether you realize it or not.

Is this to say that anyone with a powerful mind will be able to bench press 300 pounds? Absolutely not. What this suggests is that mental imagery used in conjunction with physical strength will help you to maximize your potential and eventually realize your goals.

Staying Focused

This topic also runs right alongside that of self-motivation. To be successful training for any given sport, it is essential to apply 100% of your energy and thoughts toward that certain task. Too many times I will come across individuals in the gym who are busy gawking at attractive females, or people who feel the need to talk for minutes on end in between each and every set. Discussing your next lift or setup with a training partner is one thing, but talking about a huge party on Friday night is a completely different story.

How confident in yourself can you be in successfully completely a lift or an agility drill while having many different thoughts running through your mind? This is not an easy thing to do and takes much patience and practice. However, those who are successful find a way to concentrate solely on their training while they are working at it as opposed to staring at the girl on the treadmill. No one can force you to do this but yourself.

In the end, you are the only one who can keep your mind entirely on the task at hand. This simple concept may be the missing ingredient that is holding you back from finishing strong near the end of your workouts. While you are training, treat that specific location as your place of worship if you will. No outside ideas or thoughts enter it - only the thought of finishing your workout with the same intensity with which you started it.

Setting Personal Goals

I know you have heard this at least a dozen times and are probably thinking that I am just another yahoo preaching old material. Have you ever actually set goals and kept records of your progress? The importance of setting short and long-term goals for yourself is vastly underrated. Without something to work toward or train for, how can you even become motivated to continue your training? I would be surprised if the ones who are most successful, either from, pro sports or anywhere else did not keep a journal.

This is because they ALL do! Speaking in terms of the discussion forum, how many times have you clicked on a thread and been amazed at someone's physique or a transformation which left you speechless? Maybe a few. Now if I were a betting man, I would place a wager on the fact that these individuals kept very precise records of their training along with goals they had set along the way. You may be thinking - I'm no professional bodybuilder or Olympic wrestler so these goals seem all too foolish and it's tedious to keep track of entire workouts.

However, it is proven that this does in fact help! I urge you to give it a try, not for the sake of my ranting, but for the sake of your own personal benefit. It is extremely rewarding to review your progress over a long period of time and see how far you have come. This can also be a great motivation tool in convincing yourself that you can continue to make gains and become better.

Emulation Of An Idol Or Hero

These days it seems as if uniqueness in style and how we present ourselves is preached among our parents, teachers and anyone else attempting to lead us in the proper direction. This is not the case when talking about athletics or athletic training. A great way to improve is to attempt to copy the skills and style of someone in the sport for which you are training. For example, I was reading an article about Chad Pennington, quarterback for the New York Jets, a while back.

In this article, I found it interesting to learn Chad spends hours and hours viewing game film in an attempt to emulate the great Joe Montana. In this case, I feel that "the proof is in the pudding." While Pennington has not yet reached that level, the point is that imitating the style of a great quarterback has helped him develop and improve into the player he is today. There are plenty of other great athletes in many different sports to mimic such as Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Cal Ripken, Annika Sorenstam and the list goes on and on.

Find an athlete that in your mind resembles yourself, style and what you are trying to accomplish. Learning from the skills, achievements and mistakes made by these athletes will have a tremendous impact on your development. Never be afraid of being called a copycat - great athletes can be used as a great source of learning. Use this to your advantage!


At this point, you may be thinking that I am either right in my thinking or a complete idiot who has simply babbled on for a few pages. However, if there is anything at all here that you have not given thought or haven't attempted, I invite you to give it a try. I'm more than confident you will be pleased with the end result. Too many people, especially young athletes, underestimate the power of mental preparation.

In today's world where the number of good athletes is constantly growing, the complete focus of the mind is what separates the good from the great. I pride myself in the constant learning of mental preparation for both sports and sports training. That being said, I stake no claim to being perfect or following these methods 100% of the time.

I do claim however, to try my best each and every training session to not only come physically prepared but mentally prepared as well. If you have even learned one thing from this small discussion on mental preparation and sports training, it has been well worth my while.

Thank you and all the best to you in whatever sport you train for.

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