Train Your Brain

Words: Andrea Kellerman, Educational Psychologist

Health & Fitness

Generally, athletes only train their body to prepare for a race. They neglect their mind and don't realise how important it is to have a strong mind to achieve their goals.

Train Your Brain

However, more and more sports men and women are recognising that it's just as important to train the mind as it is to train the body. But before I give you some great tips on how to do this, let's take a look at what goes on in our heads to give you a better understanding of how to train your brain.


Everything starts in our mind. It all starts with a thought, which can cause certain reactions or actions and creates our belief systems. If we focus on negative thoughts and belief systems that's what we will feel and it will inhibit us to reach our goals. Did you know that negative thoughts take 15-20% of your physical strength away?


Therefore, to have the strongest, fastest and most positive race ever, you first need to know what your goal is. What do you want to achieve? Is your goal to finish the race because it is your first time you are taking part? Do you want to better your previous time? Do you want to stay with stronger riders? Or do you want to finish in the top ten? Once you have established what your goal is, you can focus on achieving it.


To effectively do this, you need to tap into your subconscious mind. We all have a conscious and subconscious part of our mind. Your conscious mind is the part you use actively during the day and it tells us what we should and shouldn’t do, and is also responsible for mental setbacks. It is the mind’s policing system and can be quite negative if we focus mainly on negative thoughts on a daily basis. This part of the mind only uses about 10% of our brain’s capacity. Now our subconscious mind is the biggest part, using about 90% brain capacity. However, we do not use our subconscious mind actively. It is the part that stores everything we have experienced, our emotions that come up automatically and our belief systems. So, we need to influence this part of the mind to be able to achieve our goals more effectively.


To reach our subconscious, we need to bypass our conscious mind. When we relax, our brainwaves slow down from beta to alpha/theta, and when you reach this state, you’ll feel as if you are nearly asleep. At this point, our conscious mind relaxes as well and we are now able to work with our subconscious mind to create new positive thoughts and belief systems. What is interesting to note is that in this state, your mind doesn't know the difference between reality and fiction. Now, when you focus on your perfect ride, mental strength, perseverance and achieving your goals, your mind thinks it has done it already. It stores that new belief and you can achieve your goals much easier than ever before.


Here are six easy steps to train your brain to have a positive, strong ride:


Focus on the positive of your race before falling asleep
Familiarise yourself with the route you will ride. Visualise yourself riding it. Pay special attention to critical points in the race. Then focus on having a great ride where everything works out perfectly. You will fall asleep with positivity, and you'll have a better night’s rest and wake up happier.


Start the day visualising your perfect race
Do this on a daily basis in the build up to your race and you'll feel confident, more refreshed and surprised at how strong and motivated you are about doing the race. Remember, many people often focus on the negative aspects and this is what makes them feel down, anxious, upset and weak.


Positive reaffirmations
During the race, be aware of your strengths and make sure you keep reaffirming those strengths. If you are in a particularly hard part of the race, talk yourself through this situation with positive affirmations, for example, “I can do this,” and “I am nearly at the top of the hill.” Staying calm and positive inhibits cortisol (your stress hormone) production and this will help you to cope better, stay in control and be mentally stronger. Cortisol can also inhibit your physical strength. You waste energy when you are stressed, so it pays to stay calm and positive.


Be aware of negative thought patterns
Being more aware of your thoughts will help to eliminate negative thoughts that creep up subconsciously. Tell yourself that you will not allow negative thoughts to penetrate. It may help to visualise a protective shield around you that does not allow those thoughts through. Your negative thoughts must be changed into positive ones, like reaffirming your strengths (I am fit and have trained enough to manage this hill). Also focus on what you have already managed to do and then break up the race into sections that you can manage step by step. Don’t focus on the whole race at once, as it can be too overwhelming. Always remain focused on your goal and repeat your positive affirmations over and over again!


Focus on your breathing
It is important to breathe correctly throughout the race. If you stop breathing in certain situations, such as when you are anxious or nervous, this causes insufficient oxygen to reach your muscles and it will reduce your strength and performance.


Focus and consistency
You need to stay focused throughout the race. Many accidents happen because people lose their concentration and focus. Be aware of your concentration levels and keep focusing on what you are doing at all times. It is also important that your rhythm is consistent, as it will help you to get into a good stride. When you are in a good, consistent stride and your mind is focused on your race, you’ll be able to get to the finish line in no time.


If you follow these steps, your mind will be more prepared for the race. Being focused, positive and reaffirming your strengths does not come naturally to all of us, but with a conscious effort we can change that. A positive mind will allow you to feel positive, stronger and help you to reach your goals more effectively.


Finally, remember to have fun!



If you are looking for a personal trainer for your mind, then visit Andrea Kellerman’s page on


Issue 25 May '13