How to Increase Mental Strength
We all know what it is - whether we call it drive, nerves of steel, or guts. We know it’s mental strength. The key question is: How can you get it?
Nowadays, the best rugby players train their brains to be as strong as their bodies, and we’ve broken down the 5 key exercises to help you to perform at your best even in the most high-pressure conditions:
1. Be Positive
Your mind is a constant stream of dialogue, made up of external cues and your own personal beliefs about yourself. It’s perfectly natural for some of this to be negative, but you must focus on the ones that make you feel better about yourself in order to succeed. As soon as you even think you can’t sprint past the opposition, you can’t.
A simple way to maintain a positive frame of mind is to choose an objective that motivates you. Think about why you want to compete in a triathlon, or score the most tries in a season, having a reason why means you can get through anything. Anytime you find yourself struggling with motivation or want to quit, repeat your objective and keep going.
2. Be Your Own Coach
Speaking to yourself in the second person can stimulate that little bit of extra motivation that a real coach would provide. Try saying statements such as “you are going to give everything you have in this game” or “you will convert this try”. Being your own coach also enables you to control what kind of motivational messages you give yourself, as people can either be motivated by fear or success.
Being your own coach takes practice, but as you get better you will be able to talk yourself into a second wind when it really matters.
3. Visualise your success
Before you even step out onto the field you should have already played the match mentally. Imagine how you’re going to perform and what you would look like if you were watching yourself from the sidelines. Imagine every aspect of the game: The stadium. The feel of the grass. The atmosphere. When it comes to game time, because it’s already been done in your mind, all you have to do is repeat it with your body.
4. Get Out of your Comfort Zone
Most people fail to make progress because they settle into a routine. If you’re trying to be a stronger rugby player, then you need to practice lifting heavier weights or performing more reps than you’re used to. The sooner you step out of your comfort zone, the sooner you’ll realise it wasn’t that comfortable at all.
In the same way that progression is a key part of training, applying challenging stimulus to your training will make you better at handling stress, as well as teaching you problem-solving skills and critical thinking. All three of these can help you to find the drive to turn things around the next time your team goes behind in a match.
5. Be Prepared
In the world of endurance sports, there is a valuable saying: “Nothing new on race day.” This means that if you’ve prepared yourself for everything, you’ll be ready for anything. The same is true for rugby. You should know well ahead of a match or training session what you are going to eat, what boots you are going to wear, and even what songs you are going to listen to in the car. It goes without saying that you can’t be prepared for every eventuality, but you should always try to be.
Try to anticipate anything that could happen in a match, and have a solution ready in mind. This could include your team going behind, getting a blister on your foot, or coming up against an opposition player who is having the game of their life. The key is being confident that you have done everything possible to help you achieve your goal will give you a huge boost mentally.