April 15, 2009

Training Theory Applied - Part 1

The Athletic Mindset:

One of the first tenants of my approach to training is the cultivation of what I call "The Athletic Mindset". Though I've used the term for years - even going back to my first coaching clients in the mid 90's, I thought it wise to see if I was unique in using this term. The only other relevant references from a simple Google search are for a speaker series by Don Thomas, a former college professor and coach in Dalton, Pennsylvania, who offers an 8-hour course on Athletic Mindset Training($119 for adults) to help athletes learn to discipline their minds for athletic success; and a book by Christopher Bergland called "The Athlete's Way". I haven't read the book, nor seen the presentation so I think I'm safe in ascribing my perspective on the athletic mindset to my own experiences, research, and opinions, lots of opinions.

While trying to keep this post short and to the point let me say that the Athletic Mindset is merely a way to approach your training that encompasses both a sense of awe and a sense of purpose. There have been innumerable passages dedicated to the creation of a positive mindset, learning to discipline the mind and body, or improving your mental attitude. Rather than rehash what you MUST do to achieve optimal performance I'd rather encourage the athlete to look at their sport as a vessel for expression of their best self. We are often at our best when we relinquish control and expectation of an outcome and simply do.

For me there are several points that triangulate the Athletic Mindset. One eloquent expression of is the Japanese Zen Buddhist Philosophy. When you have a moment click the link. The mere reading of the passage will calm you.

Another point is attached to the concept of the flow state as described by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in his seminal book "Optimal Experience: Psychological Studies of Flow in Consciousness. Many, if not most, of us can identify with the feeling of being in the flow, the trick is to make it part of each workout or competition.

The third triangulation is the concept of expertise. The term "expert" is tossed about in the daily vernacular of our culture without regard to the true nature of the idea, nor the strident efforts necessary to cultivate an expertise. Malcom Gladwell, among others, has written about "This idea - that excellence at a complex task requires a critical, minimum level of practice - surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is a magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours."

Taken together these three ideas can form a foundation for ones approach to sport and the practice of sport. My philosophy is that when you can attach these precepts to your sporting life, and perhaps your life in general, you are opening the door to your potential.

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