Recently we asked you to submit your questions for an upcoming sports psychology Q&A with Tony Sullivan. Tony has a BSc in Sport Coaching and Performance and is currently undertaking an MSc Sport Psychology. Tony works with a multitude of athletes across different disciplines in his daily role. The response to the Q&A was great and you definitely made sure we got the most out of Tony’s knowledge in this area! Here we’ve chosen ten questions from the submissions which tie into the vast majority of of queries.
Q1. Cycling = When you’ve prepared 100% and everything goes to sh*t on the day how do you bounce back from that?
Look back at the day and note everything that went wrong with your performance and pinpoint the reasons as best you can. Also note what went right on the day because something did and this requires a reflection your performance. From this point the work starts, you put in place a plan to make sure these do not happen again. Maybe goal setting to help change behaviour and create new habits to overcome your past experience. These experiences should be looked on as a positive (Growth mindset) as in life everything will not always go to plan and learning from these unexpected situations is a great way of learning for your next race.
Q2. Cycling = Best Way to deal with Riding at your max in a Time Trial and being able to push your Limit as Far as Possible. // How do you mentally prepare athletes to push to their very limits? It’s easier said than done when suffering and a place I only rarely seem to be able to get to (maybe 2/3 times a year out of 15+ attempts)
A lot of the time it comes down to how physically prepared you are for your challenge if you know you have put in the work then your perception of effort will be lower hence you will feel fine in that situation. Also, how much do you want to win the race? How much effort are you willing to put in? Each race needs to be focused on with no thought of what is down the road racing wise, being in the moment and concentration will be key here. Regardless of quality of opposition your will to ride hard must always be there and through positive self-talk, pre-performance routines and visualization training can help you get to the stage where concentration is a learned skill. “WE TRAIN OUR MUSCLES BUT ARE WE TRAINING OUR MINDS”.
Q3. Cycling = Why is it easier to go deeper in training when listening to music? Should I use it or is it “cheating” as I can’t use it in competition.
Music has been proven to be performance enhancement. Suggestion would be to use it for training days when you are hitting volume where you know are comfortable paces for you. For the harder paces competition style pacing workouts you do, no music would be recommended, you will get to know yourself and become more self-aware at “race” intensities.
Q4. Athletics = I don’t like setting goals sometimes as I’m afraid I won’t achieve them any tips for this?
Goal setting is a very important tool to guide your training physically and mentally. My advice is over a 6 week period set yourself moderately difficult goals 5-15% above your current capabilities, re- assess in week 7 and week 8 GO AGAIN. Start by asking what is your long term goal, then come up with a process to help you achieve them (Short term). Repeating the process over and over will help reach your targets eventually. “ Shoot for the moon and you will reach the stars”.
Q5. Cycling = Is it healthy to compare yourself to other people regarding sports performance… I try focus on the process but can’t help comparing sometimes?
“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom”. Knowing yourself will be the key to you reaching your full potential. Working on weaknesses and doubling down on your strengths will be key here. As comparing yourself to others that you compete against might be needed in your sport e.g. tactics, you should be aware but the focus on yourself is where you will be enlightened.
Q6. Cycling = Where can we find good resources online like tips for nervousness / pre-race routines / meditation and that type of stuff?
This is very skilled reading area and to implement can be difficult too. Do not be afraid to reach out to a local consultant, they will help you put in place strategies to over-come these fears. Some good resources are Journal of Exercise and Psychology and applied sport psychology books. Some book recommendations are The Mindful Athlete and How bad do you want it?
Q7. Rowing = Is there a best way to handle disputes or arguments with your teammates?
This is natural occurrence even though people tend to think arguments are detrimental they are not. Arguments can be healthy once ironed out before the season starts, arguments during the season can have negative effects such as motivation loss / social loafing (exerting less effort to achieve a goal when working in a group). In such cases talk it out with respect for each other’s opinions and try work it out where both parties feel benefit. Role clarity is important to be outlined at the start of the season to try eradicate in season disputes and keep a better team cohesion (togetherness).
Q8. Cycling =When I get into winning situations where I know I’m the strongest there I often tend to go too early or hesitate for the win… like over thinking the situation slightly what would help this?
Learning form the situations where you go and find out for yourself, what do you have to lose. You win, or you learn. If you want to go further with this, it would be to improve your self-efficacy which is your situational confidence i.e. the more you are exposed to this situation the more you will know what to do.
Q9. Cycling = You can execute the training plan and eat perfectly but how do you prepare the mind for mental toughness especially when there is doubt about some of the sporting challenges that lie ahead?
I am a firm believer that situational confidence (self-efficacy) is key to performing and the more you are exposed the more mentally tough you become to the sporting challenges. Put yourself in vulnerable sporting situations outside of your comfort zone and look at your challenge as a learning experience.
Q10. Cycling = What is the routine or best method / process for preparing the mind when approaching your key event and also what techniques can be used in the days running up to and the day of the key event to get the mind in the correct mindset, self-belief/ high confidence?
Learning from previous past experience can be your best teacher. When trying to gain self-belief and confidence for the race that lies ahead you need to know yourself and be aware what are your weakness and what are your strengths and double down on them. Having a pre-performance routine for every race can also help, do not waste energy thinking of what to do next you should know, from the minute you wake up on race day until the minute you get on your bike what you’re doing. Once you have this done visualization can be learned and implemented but must not only be done days before but weeks. Think about what you see, smell, touch, taste and hear. How you think affects how you feel affects how you behave. “We believe the things we tell ourselves”.
All questions answered are best possible answers without knowing the full situation. A one to one with a sport psychology consultant may help to discover better ways of dealing with the exact situation. I tried my best to answer the questions as best I could but again it is very important to outline there may be other reasons for lack of performance as psychology of the mind and body can be very complex.
For further inquiries
Endure Performance & Psychology Consultancy