Winning the mind game in training

“We are what we repeatedly do.” Aristotle. I love a good quote and Charlie Unwin used them to great effect in his talk entitled “Winning the mind game in training.”

Sadly, this quote does mean I am late! I hate being late but I did get slightly lost getting to Charlie’s talk at the Rugby club in Amersham and then couldn’t find the right room when I got there. (However, a couple of very handsome rugby boys were happy to help me – an unexpected bonus.) But I certainly got plenty of food for thought from his hour and a half talk – minus the 5 minutes I missed. I almost wrote a book in notes on the night but will give you an appetising taster…

mindset, notes, talk, charlie unwin
Love a bit of note taking.

He opened with a list of “Truisms” – things that become obvious over time. 

  •  Training is a mindset, not an activity – it’s not just in the saddle. 
  • There is often a disconnect between ‘success’ in training and ‘success’ in competition – we challenge ourselves differently when learning, know it may go wrong first time. Need to train to be in competition so cope in environment, first time.
  • You will not always get better by spending time in the saddle – not so true for beginners but more advanced need to train smarter.
  • Potential is not the same as performance – can’t treat an acorn like an oak tree, you can’t fast track, there is a journey to follow. (Something I am so passionate about – I hate seeing stunning 4 year olds winning HOYS and never being seen again!)

This certainly got my brain ticking away to start with.

Charlie then introduced two characters “Billy Bad” and “Jonny Good”, represented somewhat theatrically by a green light stage left and a red light stage right. Really affective moving through the examples this way. Theatre is always a good thing to balance intelligent content – well, it is for me.

We then tackled the 4 key focuses

  1. Mindset – training ourselves to think differently. How our attitude predetermined our response to stimulation. And the circle of belief influencing behaviour, which effects performance, which reinforces belief.  A circle I recognise from the show ring – I believe the judge hates my horse, so I don’t put super effort into my warm up or turnout, so I don’t perform as well and lose which reinforces my belief. We have all been there! But we need to address this mindset, recognise it and consider how we want it to be. And how an inside out “sponge” mindset is needed – looking at processes (pace, rhythms, accuracy, feel) first then at outcome (winning, recognition, pleasing others). Rather than a “rock” who looks at outcome first and then process. We then looked at levels of processing and then my favourite section about comfort zone vs challenge zone.
  2. Mental stimulation –  your brain uses the same neural pathways when thinking and when doing which is why planning and thinking about things is so valuable. Humans are born to visualise and mentally prepare ourselves but modern busy lives don’t always allow. Charlie talked about the Hockey goaly, Maddie Hinch who said she could react instinctively because the hard decisions had been made in advance. And then we looked at “Chunking” – not the most elegant of words and randomly made me want Ben and Jerry’s ice cream – but it’s the skill of grouping instructions together as the brain can’t handle too many instructions.
  3. Ideal Performance State – learning to get into the right state for competition. Using the example of a rowing team putting together a soundtrack for the different parts of their race to create the ideal state.
  4. Continuous Improvements – training to the point of success, finishing on a good note and a point where want to do more. And planning for the next session at the end of the previous session when thoughts are clear.

You should all try and get to a talk. There is so much to take away and benefit from.

mindset tour dates
Tour Dates
 I’m really excited to be interviewing Charlie next week so a vlog will be coming soon. Take a look at my YouTube channel if you haven’t yet and please subscribe and share!
Post-blog comment – here is the link to my interview with Charlie. 

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