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Mental health in athletics | Goal setting in Covid

Track Talk: Mental Health in Athletics | #2: Enough

by Sophie Warden

This is the time of year when we normally look forward to the year ahead.  Reviewing performance and progress, and planning the season is an annual ritual which is great for our motivation, mental health and development ... but not possible this year in the same way. 

This short video gives tips on setting realistic goals to keep you motivated and mentally strong. 

Video Transcript: Mental Health In Athletics | Enough 

Today I want to talk about the concept of 'Enough'. 

I think as athletes, coaches, we put a lot of emphasis on things, or people, being enough.  You'll often hear phrases banded around of "That athlete's not gonna make it; they're not doing enough", or an athlete might think that about themselves.  This is a concept that's really interested me for a while:  with my own experiences with anxiety, it's been a constant battle in my own head. 

  • Am I enough?
  • Am I enough as I am?
  • Do I have the ability to do this?
  • Do I have the talent? 

Mental health in athletics | Advice and tips for athletes during covid

Especially during lockdown, that voice has become a little bit louder, because the usual things that I was measuring myself by aren't there anymore.  I can't measure myself by where I am in relation to my training mates in a particular session.  I can't measure myself by how many track sessions I've got done in a week because I don't have access to a track at the moment.  I can't measure myself by how many gym sessions are done in a week because the gyms are closed.

At the start of the first lockdown I started with "Well, you've got to be doing X amount of circuit sessions a week at home. And you've got to be doing X amount of park runs, or sand dune sessions, or whatever it was that I was doing.  And you've got to get up every morning really early in the morning to train and then you've got to sit down and do University work and all of these other things I've got going on in my life".  I burnt myself out very very quickly.

Mental health in athletics | Burnout during Covid

So, I've had to completely rethink how I define 'enough'.  And for me, I've gone from "six sessions a week is enough, that's my peak, that's where I've trained best and that's where I'm going to get the most results" to completely reevaluating my goals and deciding that for me, at the moment, enjoying what I'm doing, enjoying doing circuits at home, enjoying going out and doing a park session like I've done this morning: That's enough.  And I'm now training more than I was when I was putting pressure on myself. 

Mental health in athletics | goal setting during covid

By just re-evaluating your goals you can change your entire outlook on how you approach your sport.  And so looking forward to the 2021 season, I know I don't have the same resources.  I don't have the ability to go to Dubai, like a lot of the elite athletes have done.  I don't have access to that.  So, I'm going to try and apply that same concept to my season.  Usually, I would define a season as a success if I've placed well at a major championship of my choice, or if I've run close to or run a new PB.  I've got a feeling that I'm not going to be able to do that this year!  I have not had the ability to train to the capacity and frequency that I would normally want to. 

So how do I approach a season and make it enjoyable, but also feel like I've been a success?  I've decided for me, that being happy and enjoying competing, just being able to race on a track, that's going to be enough for me.  Simply by reframing my mindset I feel like a weight’s been lifted off my shoulders.  I've been able to look forward to the season that's coming, rather than thinking "I'm not in the shape that I should be, I'm not going to be as fast as I should be, I'm not as strong as I should be."  I've decided that where I am right now, given the circumstances that we're in, that is good enough. 

What's going to be enough for you this season?

Mental health for athletes | goal setting during covid

 

About Sophie Warden

Athlete and coach Sophie Warden is sharing a series of information on mental health in athletics, her personal experience with mental health and tips for coaches and athletes.  Sophie is a third year Sports Coaching & Development student at Edge Hill University, currently conducting research on mental health in athletics.  All the thoughts expressed are her own opinions.. 

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