sports psych

Daily Wisdom: CALL YOURSELF AN ATHLETE

Doing so can help make your workouts feel easier

Every athlete knows that education is a crucial part of performance. Sport and exercise research, insight from top trainers, science, and technology help you to better understand your body so you can craft a healthier lifestyle, workouts, and recovery plan.

In our daily news series, experts address some of the latest fitness research, nutrition, and health stories.

TODAY'S TOPIC: BELIEVE YOU'RE A PRO WHEN YOU STEP IN THE GYM

THE SCIENCE

Going into a workout believing you’ll get something out of it can help the exercise seem less strenuous, says a new study in PLOS One. But what helps even more: Believing you’re fit enough to handle the challenges ahead. In the study, people who perceived themselves to be athletic felt like the work was easier than those who didn’t identify that way, even when the two were of comparable tested fitness levels. 
EXPERT INSIGHT

“Fake it till you make it" may seem like a strategy to fool the people around you into thinking you’re qualified, but this research suggests that when it comes to sports, it actually works on the individual. “When you consider yourself an athlete, you adopt the identity of one, mind and body,” says Greg Chertok, sports psychologist at Telos Sport Psychology Coaching in New York and New Jersey.


The choice to focus on the positive or negative can have incredible control over everything from motivation to pain level. “When you’re excited to embrace a challenge, the effort isn’t as laborious,” says Chertok. “And starting a match or workout with the impression that you're benefiting allows you to persist longer in the face of adversity. If you're questioning your reasons for participating, you're more likely to bail when the going gets tough.”


There is a point at which this can work against you, though. Chertok points to research that says banking on positive outcomes may make people less likely to achieve them, since imagining your goal too strongly makes you feel like you’ve already achieved it.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Be confident in your strength and endurance, using that belief to psych yourself up before your next workout. Try setting an intention beforehand while being flexible with your goals when problems arise, suggests Chertok. You can also write down any distractions pre-workout and visualize how you want the session to go.