Last week, when I wasn’t skiing (yes, this happens), I worked on a story for WeightWatchers.com’s men’s website for which I interviewed Stephen Walker, one of my favorite sports-psychology sources. The story will be a Q&A about how regular guys trying to lose a few pounds can use sports psychology to help them adopt and maintain a healthier lifestyle, and as usual, I got off the phone with a lot of takeaways for my own life.
Walker said once athletes reach a certain level, their main struggles in the mental game have to do less with day-to-day motivation and more with confidence. “People get insecure,” Walker says. “You need to build that confidence, that sense of capability, that sense of being able to do things and do them well, in order to succeed.”
I plan to use the following tips and insights (some of which will be mentioned in the story, others which are blog-reader exclusives!) in my own training in the coming weeks:
The 80-20 rule: Walker says perfectionists tend to have the hardest time learning new skills or tackling new goals. “You make an 80 percent improvement, but the perfectionist wants more,” he says. “A lot of times, if the perfectionist can’t do more, that’s when they start to give up, and start thinking they can’t achieve their goal.” He says focusing on the 80 percent you’re doing right will help keep your head in the right place.
How I’ll use it: Clearly, this has no personal application. I know no such perfectionists. Ha! Seriously, I promise to focus on the incredible amount of new skills I’m mastering rather than obsessing about what I haven’t figured out yet.
Empty the dishwasher: Walker suggests harnessing the power of your mental game by emptying the dishwasher. Seriously—just emptying the dishwasher, with as little emotion as possible. Don’t give any traction to the whiny voice that comes out during household chores. If you can train yourself to do this while you’re emptying the dishwasher, Walker says the skill will translate to your workouts, too.
How I used it: I tried this trick while doing the dishes after arriving home on Friday afternoon after nearly two weeks away. It seemed absurdly simple, and I did fine until about halfway through, when I started scouring a pot Steve used to make chicken chili for a squadron chili cookoff. This is usually my job, and I usually win something if there’s judging. When I arrived home, Steve informed me that his chili came in last. I felt a pang of sad, wifely guilt as I scoured that pot. As I moved onto the Tupperware I’d been using for my meals away from home, my exact mental self-talk was: “This is stupid. Stupid dishes. Stupid.” Right-o. I’ll be trying this trick again.
Writing it down: Walker recommends keeping a small journal in which you jot down one thing you did each day that helped you progress toward your goal. He says you need to write about it with enough precision that “when you look at it six months down the road, you can put yourself back into that workout and realize how important that little success was in contributing to your overall development.”
How I’m using it: By noting a few pieces of progress from my last two times on the snow on Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday, when I struggled to master some one-legged drills in icy conditions, I learned a strategy for skiing on ice: Still set your edge (as opposed to sliding until the ice is gone), but place the edge gently, with a lighter-than-usual amount of pressure. On Thursday, I learned that to avoid sitting back in my skis during turns, I basically have to imagine I’m launching my upper body forward like an alpine jumper. I feel like later this season, I’ll look back on the latter especially and view it as one of those game-changing light-bulb moments.
How was your weekend? What little things did you do that helped you progress toward your goal (whatever your goal may be)?