Whether you’re exercising to lose weight or you’re a competitive sportsperson wanting to boost your performance, you can learn a lot by studying the habits of elite athletes. Here are our top tips to help you to develop a winning mentality and make the most of your training time.
Set Goals and Commit Yourself to Achieving Them
Goal setting is a great way of motivating yourself to improve and you can take your fitness level into account when choosing a target to work towards.
If you’ve just taken up running, for example, start with something small yet achievable, such as being able to run around the block without stopping. When you’ve managed that, you can gradually set more challenging goals – training for a 5k run, for example, then working your way up to a 10k, half-marathon or even full marathon event.
You can design your training schedule with your goal in mind – but make sure that your workout sessions are regular to keep up the momentum.
Max Whitlock, the British gymnast who won two gold medals and a bronze at the Rio Olympics, is a big believer in the need for regular training sessions.
“The best fitness lesson anyone can learn from the way gymnasts train is consistency. I train six days a week and that’s not easy but the thing is you can do a little bit of something every day,” he told The Telegraph.
Don’t Overdo It – The Importance of Pacing Yourself
When you’re working towards a specific target, it’s common to want to push yourself, particularly if you’re a beginner. However, doing too much too soon or training too often can lead to injuries, which will set you back.
Even Olympians don’t use gym equipment on the hardest settings, as Helen Glover, who won gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Games, told the Telegraph:
“Most rowing machines have a lever on the right-hand side that changes the setting from one to ten. A common mistake is to crank the setting up to ten as it’s the hardest, but there’s no need. In training, I use level four to five.”
Make sure that you build rest days into your training plan too and don’t sacrifice sleep, so your body has time to repair itself. Having a winning mentality doesn’t mean that you have to work so hard that you burn out.
Keep it Interesting – Mix Up Your Training Sessions
Cross training is a great way of improving your overall fitness, but it can also help to prevent you from losing motivation. Swimmers could add some weight training or running into their schedules, while footballers could try cycling or a weekly visit to the pool.
Pete Reed, a three-time Olympic gold medallist, confessed to the Telegraph that “even professional rowers get bored with training all the time.”
“We like to do other activities, particularly in the winter”, he added. “I think that is good advice for amateur athletes who get easily bored too.”
The Power of Positive Thinking – Embrace a Winning Mentality
In addition to commitment and motivation, the thing that most top athletes have in common is possessing self-belief. Having that athlete’s mentality is one of the things that can drive you to get up to train on a cold winter’s morning, or to overcome obstacles to achieve personal bests.
Last weekend, when Kadeena Cox became the first British athlete to win medals in more than one event at the same Paralympics since 1988, for example, she said that she wanted to inspire more people to take up para-sport and emphasised the importance of having a winning mentality.
“I’m nothing special,” she told the BBC. “You just have to have heart, passion, determination and self-belief”.
Rewarding yourself for your accomplishments, rather than dwelling on the things that you haven’t achieved yet, will help you to develop a positive mind-set. Many people also find that training with friends or fellow athletes can be useful, as you can encourage each other.
Watch What You’re Eating and Drinking – Find the Right Fuel
Thinking like an athlete and possessing a winning mentality will help you to get more out of your training sessions – but if you really want to succeed, you’ll also need to pay attention to your diet. Athletes competing in different disciplines often have different needs in terms of nutrition. You can find out more about medal-winning Olympians’ diet plans in our post on eating like a sporting superstar.
Don’t forget to drink plenty of water too. According to Jessica Ennis-Hill, it can help your body during and after workouts. “I always try to take on plenty of fluid during the day because the body recovers best after exercise when it’s hydrated, plus I feel it helps me get more from my training”, she told The Telegraph.
Do you take part in a sport? Have you got any training tips to share? How do you think athletes can develop a winning mentality? Tell us on Twitter or Facebook, or leave a comment below.