Train the Body. Train the Mind

Davey Black’s Mental Health Counsellor, S&C and Triathlon Coach Alejandro Rivera explores the similarities between training physically, and training mentally.

We all know that money is earned through hard work and dedication. We recognise the value in the effort behind a professional. We all know that it would be safe to be cautious before accepting something that seems too good to be true.

Most of us have seen those advertisements that promise that they will help you lose 10kg in a matter of weeks. We’ve all seen signs for magic foods or equipment that promise you will have the perfect body by just using it once per day. It would be safe to doubt the effectiveness of these systems. Anyone who has ever followed an Ironman or half Ironman training program, or standard sprint or beginner training program will have seen the effort required from the athlete. It is not as easy to show up to training and let magic happen inside of you. It requires commitment, discipline and a the development of a healthy lifestyle.

An efficient and safe training program won’t promise to give you the expected results in a matter of days or weeks. It is a long-term process. You must develop your body, learn and develop your knowledge and practice as many times as needed to get the desired result. You must also make mistakes and learn from them. An experienced coach and support team around you will help you along this journey.

As an example, a half Ironman training program consists of a lot of different elements.

  • It is made up of Microcycles through each week to Macrocycles through a month, several months, or longer depending on your goal. A long-course triathlon program can take years to show results depending on your base level of fitness.
  • A training program is a holistic process. The Triathlon journey requires more than just showing up to training, it requires that the athlete develops a healthy and competitive mindset, to develop a relationship with the coach and other athletes.
  • It requires self-awareness. Knowing your body’s limits, your strengths, knowing when to push harder and when to pull back. This process usually takes years to develop, and it is under continuous evolution. This is one key role of a successful coach, knowing when to push and when to pull back on each individual athlete.
  • Your body needs to adapt to every increase in load, change of skill or new activity. This means that as strong as your body is, it will take some time to incorporate any changes you apply to it before you can again make change or increase load. As Leo Tolstoy states “The strongest of all warriors are these two—time and patience.”

This same process can be applied to your own mental health. There is no magic pill that will remove your anxiety. No special technique to make all of your emotional stress disappear. Developing a healthy and resilient mindset is a job. It requires traveling to the bottom of your mind, discovering any trauma that might be there, learning coping strategies and eventually growing out of this as a much wiser human. The process can take weeks, months or even years in some cases. A proper mental health process involves facing your deepest fears and coming to terms with them. Engaging in sessions with your therapist and challenging your thoughts, questioning your schemas and facing your fears.

Similar to a physical training program, the nurturing or recovery of your mental health has its own elements to think about.

  • It too is made of cycles. From the initial session, a whole series of cycles are identified and one of the main objectives is to identify, analyse and eventually develop new and more healthy choices.
  • The Mental health journey is a holistic process that requires more than just showing up to the session. It requires the client to develop a healthy and self-conscious mindset, to develop an honest relationship with the therapist and  with themselves.
  • Knowing your mental limits requires self-awareness.  Your strengths, knowing when to ask yourself to bring more and when and where to put up an emotional barrier. This process usually takes years to develop and it is under continuous evolution.
  • Your mind needs to adapt. Each time you recognise a new behavioural pattern, venture into a new level of self consciousness or apply a new coping strategy to the way you face challenges, you need to understand, adapt and grow from that point. This means that as strong as your mind is, it will take some time to incorporate any changes you apply.

Following the path to find the best version of yourself, the wisest emotional being you can be, is a brave step. You will realise that you are never alone in this journey. In physical and mental health we have our teams. Your families and experts are there not only to guide you, but to motivate you to always give your best. Your support team is there to help you follow your own process from their specific angles of expertise. They are there to help you to become the best version of your own self. Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams, there is a whole community that surrounds you, waiting for you to become your best version.

Similar to a physical training program, a mental health program relies on cycles. Closing one in order to engage into the next. We need to make sure that we are crossing the path in the safest possible way. But there is one thing that can be assured. As scary or intimidating as the road might sometimes seem, the result on the other side is worth every effort. Exiting as the athlete you have always wished to be. Moulding into the emotionally balanced person who can wisely choose the path that leads to the happiest life you can imagine. This ultimate end goal makes every single step, obstacle and challenge worth the effort.

“All overnight success takes about 10 years.” – Jeff Bezos

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