Mental or Physical Training First?

When athletes and parents come to me to help them with their mental game; I often get the question “when is the best time to start mental game training”. Should you get in shape first and then add mental game training to polish it off or should you start with mental game training to lay the foundation to proper and consistent physical training?

Let’s start with a basic truth: Mental game training (mental toughness or whatever else you wish to call it) does not replace physical training. It cannot make you do something you have not trained to do. It cannot make you something you are not. There is no such thing as being able to somehow get 110% out of you. 100% is all there is and only if you have a strong mental game can you come close to your 100%. An athlete must do everything they can to maximize their physical preparation to complete. Therefore, you can start with a foundation of physical fitness and add mental game aspect later. You will not “win” without physical preparation.

In order to optimize your physical training you need the right mindset. A mindset that gets you through the tough workouts, bad days, aches and pains. It promotes persistence in the face of barriers. It promotes consistency in training. It’s about possessing the mindset that makes each workout purposeful and focused. Learning mental game techniques and honing these skills lays the foundation to be able to maximize your physical training. So there is no time like the present to learn and practice your mental skills. Don’t wait until you are training (I emphasize this for injured and rehabbing athletes!).

If you read between the lines it becomes obvious that physical and mental preparation go hand-in-hand. If an athlete wants to optimize their potential then you marry the two. They should not be treated as an either-or proposition and trained separately. The ideal approach is to integrate mental game training and techniques all along the physical training route. By the way, there are even well established models for phases of mental game training just like phases of physical training. Mental toughness is a year round pursuit of incremental improvement.

Don’t wait for some arbitrary time to be “ready” to incorporate mental game training. The time is now.

**I’ve designed a special package for runners. A complete assessment, comprehensive game plan, and 4 one-on-one coaching sessions. Drop a line if you are interested in kick starting your mental game for the new year.


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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