Go for Gold; Having the Right Mental Attitude Is the First Step to Success, Whether as an Olympic Athlete or in Your Work

Article excerpt

Byline: Rachel Murphy

WE'RE all training for something, whether it's to get a promotion or working up to running for the bus to work.

And, as you watch the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City this week, you may marvel at the strength and endurance of the competitors.

The good news is that we can all tap into their psychological and stamina building exercises.

We can all set our own silver, bronze and gold targets, which may be as simple as joining a gym, losing a few pounds or trimming your tummy.

The key to success lies in harnessing some of the Olympic spirit that turns top athletes into world beaters.

Psychologist Prof Ian Maynard, who oversees the coaching of Brits in speed skating, diving, sailing and table tennis, says being mentally fit is the first step to physical fitness.

Amanda Owens, a psychologist who works with professional footballers and who is a member of the British Olympic Advisory Committee, says your state of mind is crucial to success.

And psychotherapist Lynda Field, author of Just Do it Now (Vermilion, pounds 6.99), agrees. She says: "People aren't born winners, you have to work at it."

So here's how to psyche yourself to fitness the Olympic way:

On your marks....

Get inside your head: The first rule of success is that you have to want to win for yourself. You can't force someone to become an Olympic athlete - and nobody can force you to change your lifestyle and get fitter.

However, have you ever seen a miserable Olympic champion or met anyone who rued the day they improved their health and fitness?

Look inside yourself and ask some deep questions. What changes would you like to see and what benefits would those changes bring to your life? Focus on the positive and imagine what it would be like to get rid of the negative energy you have wasted on excuses, lethargy and laziness.

Lynda Field says: "We watch the Olympics in awe. The athletes seem superhuman and their energy is astounding. In fact, they are only human like the rest of us. Using them as a positive image is healthy. They are the living proof that we are all capable of great things and are in charge of how we live our lives. Be inspired."

Get Set...

Goals and targets: Prof Maynard says: "Goals should be SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Recordable and Realistic and Time phased. If your goals aren't smart, you won't feel you are improving and succeeding. They must be challenging, too."

All athletes set goals and targets. The first is an outcome target, such as winning a medal. For you, this may be `I will be slim and toned on the beach this summer'. The second is a `process' goal. This is what the athlete focuses on during a competition. For example, a runner may strive to have a smooth action and flowing rhythm. You could concentrate on breathing evenly and having a regular pace on the running machine at the gym. An athlete sets goals for every training session. Even if you just add minutes on to your exercise time or strive to complete in a faster time, it will help you feel that you are making progress.


Buddy system: Have a training partner. Athletes have coaches and if you can afford it, hire a personal trainer who will do the same job for you. …