Training the Competitive Mind

Training the Competitive Mind

Awhile ago, Coach Socrates, one of our Boxing coaches invited me to come and give a talk on mental training for competition, for the Provincial Boxing Team.

The talk was called, Five Simple Tips to Supercharge Your Mental Preparation.

In this article, I want to share with you one of the tips and some of the sources I shared with the athletes.

Every Day You Must Work Your Mental Training

Look at this Training Pyramid.

This is the usual training model that most coaches and athletes follow.  There is a chronological process to this.  First you develop the body, the physical foundation.  Then comes the technical skills. The tools of your sport.  Then there is the tactical level, how you will use those techniques.  And finally the mental training.

Each level, is dependent on the previous level.  Without a good physical base, you will probably not be able to execute your techniques.  Without some comprehension of the techniques, your tactical application will be somewhat limited.

In both of these cases, the Mental Preparation is last.


We need to change this perspective on training. Mental Training should be trained every day.  Not the day before, the day of, or before you get in the ring.  This is like cramming for an exam in school.  It’s poor preparation.

Remember…the way you train is the way you fight.

It makes sense to go to the gym and train your body 3-4 times a week.  It also makes sense to go and train your martial skill 3-4 times a week.  But ask yourself, are you training your mind? Are you also training your mind as you work out?  Both the mental and the physical should be trained together.

Is this Common Sense? Yes, but Common Sense is not Common Practice


Best Books

I have attached some Amazon links to what I believe are essential reading for everyone. In all transparency, I do make some money off these purchases. You can also grab these books from your local book store.

One source that I shared with the athletes is a book by Jason Selk, titled 10-Minute Toughness: The Mental Training Program for Winning Before the Game Begins

What I loved about this book is that it’s short, easy to read and easy to implement.  Jason does a great job of describing and outlining a program that you can easily implement into your everyday training.  Most books are too complicated and don’t outline any useful action steps.  The program in this book should be part of your regular training regimen.

Another great resource is Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence by Gary Mack and David Casstevens.  I liked the stories, the questions and how they stress so many aspects of mental training.  A great book that will teach you about the many levels of mental training, and to reflect on your own training.  What I didn’t like was the absence of an organized program that my athletes could use.

Other Great Books

One thing that I have learned about my athletes: they can not separate their everyday life from their training life.  I know.  Common sense. These athletes are killers in the gym.  But because they can not manage the chaos of their life, they will have a hard time making it to the top levels.

Your personal life does intersect with your training life.  In fact they are probably very intertwined.  Here are two books that I think are required reading for EVERYONE.

The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It by Kelly McGoginal.  People make this assumption: I will be happy if I have no stress.  Good luck. You’re going to be waiting a long time for that to happen.  Stress is a part of our lives.  Some of it is good, meaning that it will make us stronger, and some of it is bad, meaning that maybe there is no lesson to learn.  It just sucks.

This books is great as it teaches you how to be “friends” with stress and how to manage your stress levels.

Finally, one of my personal favorites.  The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday.  Ryan shares with us the ancient practice of Stoicism.

Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy (developed by Zeno of Citium around 300 B.C. as a refinement of Cynicism) which teaches the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions. It does not seek to extinguish emotions completely, but rather seeks to transform them by a resolute Asceticism (a voluntary abstinence from worldly pleasures), which enables a person to develop clear judgmentinner calm and freedom from suffering (which it considers the ultimate goal).

What does that mean? Pretty much Deal With It.  In this book Ryan shares the many stories of individuals who faced hardships, changed their perspective on what was happening to them, and in some cases were able to turn it into an advantage.

Do yourself a favor and grab one of these books…if not all.  Don’t like reading? Try audible books.  However I recommend getting the actual 10-Minute Toughness book because of the practical training program it provides.

And remember.  Train your mental tools everyday.  Common sense is not always common practice.