Mental Strength in Running
We work hard to dial in the physical aspects of our training, but we often leave the condition of our mind up to chance by not establishing a deliberate practice for engaging and working on high-performance mental skills. The ultimate task in endurance sports psychology is learning how to better deal with discomfort. So here’s the good news: You don’t need to hire a sports psychologist to learn how to adopt a high performance mindset. If you are working to better understand how your thoughts, attitudes, and actions influence your performance, you are already on your path to becoming your own sports psychologist. You are first trying to better understand how you talk to yourself and what the messages are that are continually floating through the six-inch space between your ears.
You probably already feel how crummy this idea sounds and can detect a shift in your mood just contemplating engaging in this task. Learning how to deliberately and intentionally work these messages is a critical step in the process. Embrace ChallengeEveryone wants to talk about mental toughness, and I’ve written about this topic previously, but the truth is, mental strength only exists in the context of a challenge. Try this: Difficult workouts on the training calendar provide the greatest opportunity to come in contact with how your mind reacts and responds to a challenge. Telling ourselves how awful the task is, how miserable it feels, how we can’t wait until it’s over not only makes the workout that much more unbearable, but it is also much more likely to lead to quitting early, which typically leads to guilt and negative feelings about doing so later.
The task of embracing challenge with an intentional cognitive framework is a good reminder that however you mentally respond in training is exactly how you will respond in racing. We have to embrace a challenge and insert ourselves into difficult tasks to find out what we are really made of and how we may respond.
Sports Psychology Is Becoming More Prevalent in Local Division I Athletics
Like most collegiate programs, Maryland did not have a full-time sports psychologist in the athletics department. The resources seldom match the demand for sports psychologists at the collegiate level, including at the major Division I universities in the D.C. area. Few programs have a full-time sports psychologist or mental health professional on staff, and others rely on the school’s counseling center or a part-time consultation model, which can present hurdles for student-athletes. American University works with Brian Levenson, a mental performance coach who has a master’s degree in sports psychology from John F.
Kennedy University, but he defers clinical help to the school’s counseling center. Other local schools in recent years have incorporated the NCAA’s ideal model-and the one Tang, now 26, wishes she had: a full-time athletics department sports psychologist. Maryland hired Dr. Michelle Garvin, the director of clinical and sports psychology, to its athletic staff in the summer of 2017, and Parker Tims, a licensed clinical professional counselor, joined the Terps last year. At Howard, Dr.
Lisa Haileab has been the athletic department’s sports psychotherapist since October 2017. She has a PhD in counseling psychology from Howard and is working on getting certified to become a licensed sports psychologist. Georgetown University has an embedded head of athletics counseling service that works fulltime within the athletics department, according to Shawn Hendi, the associate athletics director for student-athlete health and wellness. The sports psychologist position, which the school recently filled, is overseen by the Counseling and Psychiatric Services on campus. Working with a sports psychologist changed Tang’s life.
Tang is inspired by the fact that Maryland athletics now has a full-time sports psychologist.