Self-Awareness for Athletes – A Coach’s Point of View

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Charlotte Backus

The importance of Self-Awareness for Athletes from a pro cyclist and USAC certified Coach.

An athlete’s self-awareness is super crucial to any coach. Athletes can find awareness in themselves in many ways, as every individual’s peace of mind is different. The way an athlete retrieves awareness is also unique from others.

 

There is one thing all athletes have in common.  To be successful, the mind and thoughts must be in the moment with comfort and ease no matter where you are. No worries about the past, no fears of the future. It is incredible how much being aware of the moment can bring calmness to the body and mind.

 

With that ease, the muscles and cardiovascular system can quickly go with the flow. There is no initial panic. There is no worry; you’re one with yourself, your bike, and where you are.

Difference Between Being Self-Aware and Mindful

Mindfulness a state of consciousness and awareness that is within a mental state and thus achieves self-awareness of the present moment through calm acknowledgment of acceptance, feelings, body sensations, and well-being.

 

Self-awareness is a subcategory of mindfulness. When mindfulness happens, you are more aware of yourself and your current state of being.  It can help athletes build self-confidence and self-esteem, take more responsibility for their actions, and make better decisions.

Self-Awareness for Athletes Coach Charlotte Bachus

For an Athlete to have Self-Awareness when Training Takes Hard Work

As a coach, I strive to remind my athletes of the importance of self. We continually have to work on it. I always try to find new and creative ways.  It can be challenging with the hustle and bustle of today’s society.

 

Social media creates many fires and excitement.  It seems everyone is always doing something. But as humans, we must sit back and look within to find quietness. The brain runs off of a lot of cortisol when stress and busyness surround us.

Zwift cycling avatar

Some Cortisol is Good, But Not All The Time

Though cortisol is beneficial at times, the consistent push of external stressors adds more anxiety and stress to an already tense situation causing it to build up. I ensure that all my athletes trust and talk to me, not just about training.

 

Knowing what life schedules and stressors can hinder awareness and create a barrier to getting stronger is important.  I never dismiss my athletes and say, “go do some lovely meditating, and you will be fine.“

 

I refrain from doing so because, for many individuals, it’s hard to even start meditating. It’s difficult to stop your mind from running from you. To create mindful awareness, you need to be able to settle down and block the constant surge of cortisol from life stressors that flow into your hormonal system.  Too much can cause excess stress and strain to your body and your mind and wear an athlete down.

The Mental Aspect of Self-Awareness Training For Athletes Coaching is Fascinating

Throughout my school years studying psychology, I was fascinated by how our brains worked.  I learned that we need to find moments when we are content and in a current state of self before forcing ourselves during stressful situations.

 

Forcing yourself to meditate or visualize when you are already stressed defeats the purpose of trying to relieve the stress. One way you can achieve working on the skill, just like anything, is to put yourself in the best position to succeed.  

 

When you are relaxed, calm, and in a good state of mind, realize that you are aware of your current surroundings, breath, body sensations, and being in the now and the present moment. You can then work on relieving the stress of future worries and past reflection and focus on YOU… right now.

Self-Awareness for Athletes coach holding a foam thumbs up

Positive Affirmations Can Help You Become Aware of Oneself Through Self-Awareness Training for Athletes

There isn’t just one way of achieving complete awareness, self-confidence, and belief in oneself.  

 

Athletes can build their self-confidence by looking in the mirror and stating positive affirmations like “I am strong,” “I am a powerful human,” “ I can do whatever I set myself to,” “No one can stop me,” and “I am worthy.”  

 

Write sticky notes with uplifting messages and place them around your room. The more you tell yourself to believe, the more it will become true. The athlete will create a central flow of well-being.  

 

Then mindfulness self-awareness will naturally follow. You’ll be one with yourself and proud regardless of the circumstances.

Self-Awareness for Athletes cyclist holding bike with head down

Visualization Can Help You Become Aware

Another way to practice and achieve such awareness is through visualization. Visualization is when you picture yourself winning a race, conquering a workout, or climbing a particular hill.

 

It can prevail in many different ways, but the main goal is to visualize yourself in success. Visualize yourself doing well and seeing the end, and being happy. Visualize yourself being strong, powerful, and getting through anything, even if it’s not the best day.

 

Suppose you visualize before a hard workout or a big race. In that case, you’re associating a positive aspect to the result, which will give less energy to negative thoughts and worry and more inner flow.

Self Awareness Training for Athletes Takes Practice, Too

I’m not saying you have to do this every day.  It’s like training. You’ve got to build into it, not force anything, and be kind to yourself.

 

Looking in the mirror and talking to yourself may seem funny at first.  For some athletes, it is odd to be at one with themselves or alone in general.  

 

As with anything, the more you practice when you’re in a good state of mind, the better it gets. For you to achieve a level of self-confidence, so when you are stressed, you can better get into that zone and relieve the stress for that one moment.

Being Self Aware is Important For Training, Too

Now you ask me, “Why would this be relevant to working out or training?” You may believe that mindfulness, visualization, and self-affirmations are limited to a race scenario. I beg to differ.

 

To get stronger and prepare for races or events, one must train. We can try to get away with just spinning around and doing what we want, but we need to work hard beyond levels of comfort to reach our full potential.

 

That’s when having a coach to guide you is crucial. A coach that considers the physiological and psychological systems. It can be tough, and some days are better than others.

Being One With Yourself Will Get You Past the Tough Days

On bad days you can feel down about yourself.  That’s when being positive will engage and strengthen your stance of coming back. This confirmation will also help you through hard workouts that you don’t think you could make it through.  

 

You can keep pushing to the end by focusing on each section as it comes. That in itself will make you much stronger. Visualization will help you picture a successful workout, become a machine, and get through it to become stronger.

 

Affirmations will help you create the confidence you may lack on days you struggle to get going.

Conclusion-Self-Awareness Training for Athletes

Mindfulness, visualization, and self-affirmation are super important techniques regardless if it is a race or not. You will also find that these help you throughout your life, not just in training.

 

There’s a human experience we all live in, and the more we build together, and you can work on yourself, the more flow and one you become. And in all, don’t feel afraid to express these emotions.

 

We all experience them at different levels; the best feeling is that you are not alone on this journey. If you have a coach, don’t hesitate to tell them how you feel.

 

Make it a priority to write some notes down after your workouts, races, events, or anything really to visually put it to words and process and take note of how your progress unfolds.

Does your coach practice mental techniques as a way to improve your performance?

What strategies do you use that help get you through the tough patches?  Comment below!  Your fellow virtual cyclists want to know.

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Charlotte Backus

Charlotte is a certified nutritionist, level 1 USAC, and Training Peaks Coach. She studied psychology at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, where she got a full ride to race road UCI and Collegiately for the team. In 2020 Charlotte graduated on the brink of the pandemic and moved to Park City, Utah, where she continued her professional career as a gravel specialist. She works closely with Vision QUEST out of Chicago, ex-pro Mari Holden, and retains amazing connections through her ability to help others get stronger and mentally and physically healthy. Charlotte continues to race on an elite level on gravel, Zwift, and some road. She is also passionate about ultra events and mountain biking as she strives to help others and grow the fantastic cycling community.

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