Brief Interview Responses about Attitude and Mental Aspects of Training
A student recently interviewed me with some questions related to sport psychology. Below were my responses:
Q: It has been said that if you have the mental attitude of “I'm going to lose” then you will lose every time. I was wondering what you think of this statement?
A: This is clearly evident in research, which we have been covering in the Sport Psychology class I teach. If you think negative, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and you fail to perform well. Positive attitude is a key. Psychologists recommend using techniques like positive self-talk, thought stopping, and thought checking to help overcome this problem.
Q: I have read a few papers on the affects of mental training and the gain of muscular strength and was wondering what you know or think about this subject?
A: There are all kinds of mental training training techniques, called psychological skill training. I am not aware of any that have shown results that directly improve muscular strength, but I would not be surprised if it can be effective there. When it comes to lifting technique and concentration, there are definitely techniques like "imagery" that can help improve performance. This would indirectly help with strength gains because you can lift more weight and get a better overload out of the workout. Also, you could perhaps avoid problems with burnout and overtraining with psychological techniques, which would indirectly improve strength. As for mental training that directly improves the physiological gain of muscle strength, I am unaware of any proven benefits.
Q: What are the affects of having a strong mental attitude when you are participating in a sport?
A: "Mental toughness" helps overcome the problem of dropout in sport, especially for those that quite because of burnout. There is a lot of research on mental toughness and how to build it, because it is a good trait for athletes to have. At the Australian Institute of Sport where I recently did some consulting, they have just launched a mental toughness online program that focuses on this very thing with athletes.
Q: Can having a strong mindset or not having a strong mindset affect the outcome of your workout? Can you gain or lose physically from your attitude?
A: In addition to the things I already mentioned, having good confidence and mental toughness can help with working out longer and more often. It has to do with behavior change, and the ability to focus on doing the workouts, which many people struggle with. Using behavior change techniques can improve the chances of someone doing the workout in the first place instead of skipping a workout. Then, when the person does the workout, they can focus on taking the workout plan to fruition even if they are not motivated to spend the time there. Many people do not enjoy the discomfort of the workout itself, and this is where "dissociative" strategies can come into play, whereby the participant uses strategies to keep their mind off the pain. Most of fitness comes down to behavior modification and the ability of the person to commit to the training. Everyone knows they need to get fit and stay fit, but the mind--consequently the behavior--is the biggest obstacle they must overcome to be successful.