Relaxation is an excellent method of aiding recovery, so it is important to consider what helps you to relax. You might find, for example, that taking time out from work or family commitments—or even training commitments—can contribute enormously to helping you relax and thus ensure that you are mentally fit throughout the season and, indeed, in the whole of life.
Burn-out (mental fatigue) occurs when your mind is no longer able to recover from the stimulus you are placing it under in your daily life. Workload, family and social commitments, training, racing—everything contributes to your mental fatigue and, at some point, you will find that you are not be able to continue, much in the way that chronic fatigue affects the body.
One thing that might help you to relax is meditation. You could try Headspace[i] or you could try something like yoga. Both will help you relax, take your mind away from the stresses of the outside world and help you to feel free from the stresses of everyday life. This time away from daily concerns has helped me to overcome many potential bouts of burn-out.
Meditation doesn’t suit everyone, but I advise you to try yoga, Pilates, or something similar to see if it has a positive effect on your life and on your athletic performance. You might also try simply sitting in a quiet space alone and just allowing your thoughts to pass through your head. Meditation can be used for anything—more quality sleep, removing or dealing with stress, athletic performance, recovery, you name it you can train your brain to deal with it better.
If meditation just sounds too much or even too ‘out there’ for you right now, why not simply try some breathing exercises:
- Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position.
- Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out.
- Breathe out through pursed lips as if you were whistling.
- Do this breathing 3 to 10 times.
Start here and see how you feel. There are many apps that can help you with guided exercises and you can do them anytime, anywhere.
Once you’ve settled on your regime, the next step is to turn that into routine. Create the habit and commit to doing it every day. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day, use this as motivation to ensure that you get back on track the following day. First thing in the morning might be the best time to do this, start your day right.
If you are able to do so, one of the most effective ways to relax is to simply remove yourself from significant triggers. For example, if you have a certain friend who has a knack of bringing you down, sucking your energy or turning your mental wellbeing from positive to negative, then the simple solution would be to remove them from your life. This may sound harsh but I’m a firm believer in Jim Rohn’s philosophy that you become the average of the five people you most hang around with. If you surround yourself with negative people, you will become a negative person. If you surround yourself with successful people, you will become successful. You can apply this to many aspects of your life. If your work has a negative effect on your life, change your job. If you are in a dead end, unhappy relationship, consider why it is that you persevere with that relationship. It’s worth bearing in mind that Einstein’s definition of insanity is to repeat the same process over and over again and expect a different outcome. You are the master of your destiny; make a change that will positively affect your life and, ultimately, your performance.
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