The art of mental training

Over the last few months I’ve really gotten into listening to podcasts. It started with the ProBlogger 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge, which then got me looking around for different podcasts and I currently subscribe to DogCast Radio and Victoria Stilwell and of course Greg James: That’s What He Said.

During an average work day I’ll spend a fair bit of time driving; 40 minutes to work and then a couple of hours while in work, then there’s my drive home again in the evening. All this time feels so wasted to me as I could be getting so much done, such as blog writing or reading. I’ve come to learn that this time is perfect for podcasts, learning as I drive (or just being entertained by my favourite Radio 1 DJ).

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While enjoying the podcasts I started to think more and more about audiobooks and I kept being reminded of what Charlotte Harding had said in a recent guest blog post on Mark Laker’s site. She mentioned how she had listened to the audio version of the book Mark Laker had advised Team GB to read while driving to agility shows. Charlotte said she doesn’t have much time to read so this was the perfect solution for her. [Read her article here!]

This week I took the plunge and downloaded my first audiobook, choosing to start with the one Charlotte had talked about; The Art of Mental Training by DC Gonzalez. Psychology fascinates me (which is unsurprising really as I’m so into dog behaviour and communication) and I gained a lot when I attended Mark Laker’s seminars on Sports Psychology for Dog Agility Handlers a few years ago (I promise this post is not sponsored by Mark Laker, he just has a lot to do with why I listened to this book).

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I downloaded the book on Wednesday afternoon and by Thursday lunch time I had finished it. I was riveted the whole way through and thoroughly enjoyed it, partly due to Gonzalez’s voice and storytelling being so easy to listen to yet captivating. Gonzalez uses his life experiences and stories to back up his teaching, which is one my favourite ways to learn. I always remember one of my lecturers at university that used to captivate a whole lecture theatre of students with her stories. She’d apologies and try to get back to teaching but we’d always insist on hearing more and I truly believe those stories taught me more than any ‘formal’ lecture did.

The book talks about different aspects of the mind and mental state and how to control and overcome each situation in order to keep your desired mental state. It talks about anger and fear, selfconfidence, relaxation and breathing. It talks about the importance of visualising your dream and setting long-term and short-term goals to achieve them. It talks about taking negative energy and turning it into useful positive energy and using self-talk to prepare yourself to deal with and overcome a challenge.

This book not only gets you thinking about how to be the best sports competitor but also about your mental approach and well-being in everyday life. How to deal with difficult situations and cope under pressure.

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It’s given me a boost to keep focused and work harder, and to turn every day negative energies and thoughts into positive ones. Yesterday I was the Show Manager for the Dig It Club Comp. First we found out that we’d only got one set of feet for the timers and then the timers weren’t working. I found myself thinking about the book and using my breathing to stay calm and take the challenges as a positive. 

Anyone that knows me well will know I’m pretty tough on myself and can seriously lack confidence after I’ve hit a low, no matter how small it is. Listening to this book has really inspired me to not let myself get so low again and how to deal with failure, plus be more self-confident and believe in myself. 

I honestly don’t know if I’d have stuck with it if I’d picked up a hard copy to read instead. Listening to the techniques being verbally explained helped me to visualise them clearly, plus I felt like Gonzalez was specifically talking to me and trying to help me, whereas I switch off to big chunks of complicated text, but then that’s just my learning style. 

Whether you prefer to read or listen I highly recommend this book, for anyone wishing to change or improve their mental attitude, be ye a sports competitor or not. 

Now… on to the next audiobook!

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