Jon is a good quality club athlete who came to me to discuss his mental approach to his running. The issues he presented with were ‘extreme nerves before races’, ‘negative thoughts about his clubmates being at races and in training that did not serve him well’ and a tendency to be very ‘self-critical about his performances and himself in general’.
We looked at a number of things: Areas of concern, what he could control, what he couldn’t and what he might be able to influence. We worked on a strategy to prepare him to have a calm but focussed mind before races. And I asked him to record and think about any time or situation when he gave himself negative feedback either internally or externally. To see how he felt about it and to consider something more positive that he could have said. I also asked him to accept compliments without reply as he would often negate the compliment saying something like, ‘Oh it was quite easy really’ or similar. And we worked on re-framing his thoughts about his clubmates so he could look at their presence more positively.
We had a number of sessions together and he started to practise these things, also making some big changes to his daily routine in terms of exercise at home and generally being more productive. He also decided to keep a detailed journal of his running, noting how he felt both physically and mentally. All these things Jon chose to do which was really positive and helpful.
With continued practise and focus, things improved for Jon and I started to work with him on more practical aspects of training alongside regular check-ins on the mental aspects of his performance.
He reported generally that he was able to focus and get ‘in the zone’ far better for races than he had previously. He became pleased and encouraged when clubmates were also present at events and was far less negative about himself both with his running but also with life in general.
In practical terms, there were limited opportunities to measure success during lockdown which is when this work happened. However Jon did manage a best 5k time for 5 years to help a V45 relay team to 4th place nationally in a virtual competition. And I think there is more to come.