When to push yourself as an athlete, and when to pull on the reins?

Do you ever feel like you just need a break?  

You are tired, burned out, but you compare yourself to a teammate who looks like the ‘Energizer Bunny.’

First thing you need to understand – stop comparing yourself.

No two bodies are exactly the same and you need to cherish yours. Listen to what it’s telling you.

One key to success as an athlete is balance, which I wish I learned when I was a young athlete. An athlete needs to learn to listen to their body: it’s talking to you. When you listen to it and treat it well, you will train and perform at a higher level.

Try to soak in this concept: resting your body gives you time to heal, which in turn will help you to perform more competitively.

School work will demand your attention at times. Missing a workout to give your body the rest it needs is more important than getting in that next rep.

Maybe you are feeling like you are getting sick. Maybe hormonally your body is requiring more rest. Or maybe you just need a mental break.

It’s important to understand when it’s time to push your body, and when you need to pull back the reins to quiet your mind.  

So, when is it a good time to push?  

When you are healthy, getting enough sleep, giving your body time to recover, and eating the correct grams of protein, carbs, and fat – push it girl. When you are at a showcase tournament and your legs are aching, heavy, and tired – warm-up longer and get your legs loosened up, get your mind in the right place, and push yourself.

When you are at the end of your season and your body and mind are burned out and you are in a playoff game – push.

So how do you take yourself mentally to that next level and focus on pushing? Self-talk.

“I can get through this mile run test because I have trained for it, I am strong, and because I want to get faster than last time.” “I will sprint after every ball until the final horn is blown at the end of this game.” “I can push out one more rep on this exercise because I want to gain more muscle so I can be stronger and faster than my competitor.”

Learn to take yourself to that next level.  

It’s time to train your brain to shift to the next gear. You can be in the best shape of your life, and the only thing holding you back is your mind. With athletics, you must be mentally strong to be on the field or court.  

Taking yourself to the next level mentally takes time. You must take yourself out of your comfort zone.

You must be willing to be uncomfortable. You might feel silly because maybe you will make a funny face when finishing that last repetition, who cares. Maybe your face turns bright red when you push yourself to the limit on the track, who cares.

You get that last rep in and make gains that will get you down the field and court faster.  

Step out of your comfort zone and learn to push yourself to that next level when it’s an appropriate time. You will find that your mind controls your actions, and you will be stronger on and off the field.  

Mary Driscoll’s health and wellness column publishes every other Thursday.

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