Words by: Helena Werner Photos: Helena Werner and Daniele Molineris
My name is Helena and I do a lot of work involving mental training and stress management, mostly within sports and how to perform during extreme situations. I would like to tell you a bit about mental training, how you can increase the chances of reaching your individual goal and to find your flow, or as I call it, your right amount of crazy!
I love the outdoors and mountains, I ride, hike, ski and run up and down them as often as I can, and usually camp with my van next to them. Doing sports on mountains sometimes pushes our bodies and mindset pretty hard. And as someone once said “if you don´t do the mental journey of the climb, you´re the same asshole when you come down as when you started”.
My interest for mental training started when I was coaching police officers and cadets with firearms training and I have studied and coached within life coaching, stress management and Sports Psychology. As a teenager I had a Life Coach to help me deal with performance anxiety, failure and to set goals when I competed in the elite series with my horses. I too struggle sometimes with feeling horrible on my bike or not wanting to ride at all, and mental training has helped me a lot to enjoy riding more and to feel better.
I am a strong believer in the power of the mind and how the brain works, that we can change and “tweak” our thoughts and behavior to make us feel and do better. In my sessions I usually notice that most people are trying to do what is best for them, but some unintentionally do the opposite.
Now when you know a bit more about me and what I do, let’s go back to that electric feeling on your bike, the flow! How do we get there and why is it important?
Let’s look at it at the opposite way. Hop on your bike, find a track you´ve never done, knowing that it will have all the features that you know that you struggle with and just ride it. How does that make you feel? Let’s just say that you will probably feel a bit of stress, your heart might beat a bit harder, your hands shake, difficulties to focus and you sweat a lot. That stress most likely comes from a feeling of lack of control, lack of time to prepare and perform and lack of knowledge or skills.
Stress is your body’s way of saying something is about to happen, it is up to you to decide how to perceive it. Is it something fun, or something scary? The right amount of stress can make you better, stronger and more focused, which are abilities we want when we are about to perform! We want the right amount of crazy!
So here are some tips for you:
– Create control!
If you can’t change the situation you’re in, you can still control one thing – the way you think about the situation!
Focusing on the most helpful thing at the moment will help your brain to access all the skills you have learnt up until now.
So, choose three things to focus on that will help you. For me, it is usually “breath, look up, focus!”.
Do your homework!
“When the shit hits the fan”, you are most likely going to do like you´ve prepared and trained up until this point, that’s just how your brain works! What you focus on most of the time, your brain automatically will think that that’s the most important thing for you! So decide what is the most helpful thing to think and do during your training; that you can do it, or that you can´t? What you focus on will grow.
Give yourself time.
Set short time goals and long term goals. If you are under pressure, chose one or two things that´s allowed all of your precious time. Try not waste time focusing on disturbing things, like if people are watching or “can I do it?”, or “don’t crash”.
These things take time, so don’t forget to celebrate when you succeed and reach a goal, it teaches your brain that that is an emotion to thrive for and you are going to want to continue.
And enjoy your recovery afterwards, you´ve earned it!