“The Brave Athlete: Calm the f**k down and Rise to the Occasion”

Let’s just start with the title. I don’t know about you, but this title caught my attention. After listening to Dr. Simon Marshall, a professor of medicine and his Iron-Woman champion to wife Lesley Paterson on an episode in Ben Greenfield’s podcast it was finally time for me to find the time and read their book. In the book, the power-couple reveals how to get through the 13 most common mental obstacles athletes face and I share my top 25 takeaways from the book in this week’s blog post. 

When Dr. Marshall, the sport performance psychologist (specifically for endurance athletes) and the professional triathlete Lesley Paterson got together they chose to write a book where they talk about the mental part struggle most athletes face at the highest level in sports.

Simon Marshall and Lesley Paterson in an Interview for Velopress (Picture taken from Velopress)

To begin with, I thought there might be fun to know some facts about Dr. Marshall and Paterson before we jump into what their book has to say regarding exceptional strong mental game. As they both agreed that it came naturally to them to write this book, there was a serious reason why they wrote it. Paterson mentioned how she had always wanted to go to the Olympics but failed big time and struggled with the coaching side of things and how the coaches were approaching her on the British national team in specific. She was one of those athletes who struggled with the 13 mental obstacles and it was time to find a solution for those if she was going to be a top athlete. 

The Thirteen Obstacles to Concur:

  1. Why do I have thoughts and feelings I don’t want?
  2. I wish I felt more like an athlete.
  3. I don’t think I can.
  4. I don’t achieve my goals.
  5. Other athletes seem tougher, happier, and more badass than me.
  6. I feel fat.
  7. I don’t cope well with injury.
  8. People are worried about how much I exercise.
  9. I don’t like leaving my comfort zone.
  10. When going gets tough, the tough leave me behind.
  11. I need to harden the f*ck up.
  12. I keep screwing up.
  13. I don’t handle pressure well.

Throughout both Marshall’s and Paterson’s careers, they both knew they had to come up with a solution. Their solution was to find approaches for how to get rid of unwanted thoughts that were constantly spinning in her head. Together they have helped many athletes concur at least one if not all of the 13 barriers. However, in my opinion, they have more than 13 points to highlight, so I am sharing my top 25 takeaways from their book below.

Lesley in their very own YouTube film – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMkumTQMSoA

25 bullets that I found Worth writing down

  1. Your mindset is extraordinarily important – you have to have the right mindset before you can start applying the different strategies
  2. Good communication is the key to everything – most importantly how to approach people to get them out of slumps to finding their identity
  3. Develop a Mature Athlete Identity – how you think and feel like an athlete, how others see you as well. Can you own your athletic ability, you don’t need to prove anything to anyone else. Being able to balance life between being an athlete (self-schema)
  4. Form your identity using self-schema – the scaffolding, beliefs that you have about yourself, “I such as a basketball player,” strategy #1 fake it, strategy #2 change the underline belief system.
  5. Challenge the thoughts and feelings that you do not want – point out what thoughts are holding you back and what you have to do to get past them.
  6. Talk to yourself the way you want to be talked to – dare to say, “I am a professional athlete,” “I am the best I have ever been in my life,” “I am a runner,” “I am a swimmer.” Whatever it is that you are, fully own it. It is not until
  7. Change training partners – variation is important, don’t always work out with people who are beating you up, it will change your perspective of your training and confidence
  8. “I keep screwing up on game day” – it is all in your head, simplify the event, minimize the risks of not being prepared and understand that you decide how big it is going to be
  9. Approach differently – the athletes who think they are on the top of the world, you have to approach them differently – break their thinking through and find the roots as to why they view themselves as the TOP athletes but in fact they aren’t.
  10. Learn to value your identity (identity foreclosure) – the beliefs of old beliefs are forming a new identity, there you might find that you are better at something
  11. Get to the core of your passion – define your WHY and fully pursue it
  12. Train in different environments – share your knowledge and learn from others, the sport is so much more than just putting the ball in the hoop, running trails, swimming laps and so on.
  13. Become a better person – learn to maximize the time that you put into the sport and let it help you become a better person, only then you have understood that it’s more than just a sport
  14. Be present – embrace the gratitude, appreciate where you are and the fact that you are able to do what you love
  15. Create an identity that you can take on (alter ego) – find someone who you’d like to be like, find your alter-ego that you bring out every time you lace those shoes or put that swimsuit on. For example, every time I put on my basketball shoes I got my Diana Taurasi game face on.
  16. Mental comfort blanket (avoid cognitive anxiety) – if you have a continuous routine every day before practice and the same routine before game days you are less likely to make a mistake of missing your shows or anything that could take you off the task.
  17. Have structure/rituals – from the minute you wake up, to what you eat, to putting your clothes on, to what music you listen to, to how you do the walk-through, to warm-up, to game time. Learn to control what you can control and what is not in your control, deal with it.
  18. Make a list of everything that can go wrong, then make arguments to how you could get through all these little things. You have now build your confidence, you can now let these things go and focus on the things you want to happen, back to rituals and positive thinking before the game/race.
  19. Cope with injuries – think your way through the injury, hustle to get treatments, get better at other things and get ahead in other areas. For example, if you have a shoulder injury, work on your legs and do everything you can so when your shoulder is healthy you can use more time into working back the strength on that part and you’ll already be ahead in other areas.
  20. Don’t make the same mistake twice – learn how and why you got injured and do not make the same mistake again. Maybe seeing physical therapists, maybe talking to a nutritionist or perhaps a lifting coach about how you are scheduling different types of training will minimize you getting injured again. Find a solution, focus on staying healthy.
  21. Use the right therapy – Professional athletes put their body at extreme stress at times and therefore therapy in form of massage, treatment, different kinds of exercises might minimize that stress on the body, keep your body healthy longer.
  22. Have a systematic plan for when you get injured – how you cope with the injury has to be planned out, seek help or learn how to deal with the setback you’re put in and use that as motivational fuel
  23. RECOVER RECOVER RECOVER – more is not always better, know what recovery works for you after a game, tough workout, training camp or injury and come back fitter
  24. Meditate and learn mindfulness – dare to step outside of the world and see it through a different lens, what you are seeing doesn’t always to be the truth. Looking at something when being in a negative state of mind is completely different than when being in a positive state of mind.
  25. Control effort and attitude – the mantra of the power couple; stay in the present, become obsessed with presentism, let go of the future and what has already happened. If you give your absolute greatest effort and you have the best possible attitude you have done everything you can in your power.
Lesley competing at the most physically and mentally exhausting competition in the world, Iron Man.

Until next week, pick five out of these 25 bullets and try to make them a living standar for yourself as an athlete. Start during an off-season, start now or start in the beginning of your season coming up, be ready to see a positive change.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Like!! I blog frequently and I really thank you for your content. The article has truly peaked my interest.


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