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The True Relationship between Physical and Mental Training

“Pain doesn’t tell you when you ought to stop. Pain is the little voice in the back of your head that tries to hold you back because it knows that if you continue you will change. Don’t let it stop you from becoming who you can be.”
-Kobe Bean Bryant |RIP|

When I talk about Mental Skills Training or Sport Psychology, I often lump Physical Training into this category… but why? Physical Training is quite a bit different from mindfulness and focus training. So why do I tend to lump these into the same category?

First, we have to understand that Physical Training for an athlete is actually a pretty wide umbrella including: Team Practice, Individual Skills Training, Strength and Conditioning, Recovery Work, or pretty much any activity that helps prepare them from a physical standpoint. This type of training is much more exhaustive than just Team Practice.

Now knowing this, why on earth would this stuff be considered Mental Training as well?

When an athlete has high levels of both Mental and Physical Training, they are able to reach new heights of performance that they potentially never thought were possible. These heights are often only achievable through extreme levels of training on both fronts.

I consider Physical Training as part of Mental Training as well because no matter how hard we try, human beings are never able to completely separate their mind from their body, in any capacity really. These two aspects (mind and body) that make us up as humans are constantly interacting, arguing, collaborating, and making us who we are. Due to this constant cross-over and interaction, our Mental Training and Physical Training are constantly impacting one another, both good and bad.

So how does this relationship between mind and body impact performance within a game?

The best way to describe how Physical Training impacts your Mental Performance is to set up a comparison example between two athletes.

Athlete Number 1 is in amazing physical condition, trains all out all the time, and gets in plenty of extra work outside of team practice. He also does zero mental training and has never even heard of it.

Athlete Number 2 is also in pretty good physical condition and works hard at practice, but in his time outside of practice he does Mental Training instead of additional Physical Training. Including: Meditation, Focus Training, and working with his own Sport Psychologist.

Both of these athletes are very talented and work hard to perfect their craft… They just do it in slightly different ways. From my perspective, I believe Athlete Number 2 is better prepared for a high level competition and will be able to withstand and perform better when tensions get high. (But I think everyone saw that answer coming from me…)

I’m not saying that just because Athlete Number 2 does extra Mental Training, he is automatically LeBron James while Athlete Number 1 then becomes a total scrub just because he didn’t do Mental Training. This is not the case whatsoever.

So what advantages does Athlete Number 2 have over Athlete Number 1 because of their differences in training?

*disclaimer* (None of these ‘differences’ are absolute guarantees, but are more likely due to one athlete being more mentally trained.)

  1. Athlete Number 2 will likely be more confident.

    1. This is because he has the Mental Training to understand how to build his confidence. The best way to build confidence is to raise your skill level and improve your game, which he does through practice and training.

      1. Athlete Number 1 may also be very confident and just not know it because of his lack of Mental Training.

  1. Athlete Number 2 will be able to focus better in game.

    1. This is because he has prepared a routine and a way to prepare for the game that allows him to ‘Get in the Zone’ and prevent any distractions from getting to him. This allows him to play stress-free and without thinking.

  1. Athlete Number 2 will be more prepared for ‘off-script’ moments.

    1. Since he has practiced visualization and imagery he has already ‘performed’ these moments inside his own head and is fully prepared for a situation that you wouldn’t normally be ready for.

  1. Athlete Number 2 will rise to the occasion when stress is high.

    1. When both your Physical and Mental Conditioning are very high, it allows your mind to perform without really thinking. You are able to play ‘Mindlessly’ and allow your Training to take over and perform the moves without your mind worrying and second-guessing.

    2. This can only be accomplished through extensive amounts of practice and repetition on both Physical and Mental Training.

This example shows that both Physical Training and Mental Training are extremely important and beneficial to athletes looking to perform at their best. It also shows that without either one of these types of training, you are missing out on some of the benefits you can get when both your Mental and Physical Training are at high levels.

Our minds and bodies are never truly separate and never work independently, which can really complicate things. The best way to get the highest performance out of both our bodies and our minds is through training them, both together and separate. Implementing bits of Mental Training throughout your traditional Physical Training is a great way to start bridging this gap between the two styles of training.

At the end of the day, Mental Training or Sport Psychology is an amazing tool to help athletes take that next step and get those small advantages they have been missing with only traditional Physical Training. Without both of these training styles working in collaboration and extreme buy-in and work ethic from an athlete, they are never going to be able to reach the extreme heights they have always dreamed of.

Athletes always want to give themselves the best chance for success and high performance. At a baseline level, the best way to ensure this is through proper, high level Physical and Mental Training working in collaboration with each other.

The True Relationship between these two styles of training is much more complicated than anyone would expect, but it’s a beautiful and complicated bond that they form between one another leading them to be lost without one another and helping create some of the best athletes in the world.

Take your training to the next level and begin becoming the Best Version of Yourself.


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