As a part of a vibrant community among ski and snowboard athletes, you're no stranger to the exhilaration of racing down the mountain, and the thrill of carving through fresh powder. But there's more than being at the top of your game than just physical strength and technique. It's time to shift your focus to the often-overlooked, yet critically important aspect of your athletic journey:
your mind fitness
Recently, we were part of a speaking series in which a presenter talked about what he called Mind Fitness. The speaker was Chris Irwin, and he is a Navy SEAL veteran who struggled with mental and chronic illness problems for over a decade. After seeing dozens of providers and trying all sorts of therapies, he had an experience that led to him realizing he had to train his mind as well as he had trained his body. He founded RARE SENSE so he could share his insight with anyone looking to work on mental health. He advocated for proper mental training to treat invisible wounds, decode mysterious conditions, and ultimately thrive.
During his presentation he laid out a framework to address each of the feelings or actions that were previously stopping him from moving forward. He calls these mind killers. While identifying the limitations in his progress was helpful, he found that making a strategy to address each to be the best way to build a mind fitness regimen. For each mind killer, he had a counter measure. Here we will review each mind killer and give a countermeasure to help you move forward in your own mind fitness.
Mind Killer: Oblivion - "I am my thoughts"
Counter Measure: Awareness/Meditation - "It's just information"
The dialogue we tell ourselves can be beneficial, but it can also be highly restrictive. If we don't believe we can overcome something, then the likelihood of us changing is already stalled. If you have negative thoughts that restrict your progress, then acknowledge that. Become aware of what your thought process is, and you can identify those thoughts as information you can mark as useful or not. By increasing your awareness, perhaps through meditation, you can take away the emotional response that is stifling your progress.
Mind Killer: Story Telling - "I wish this didn't happen"
Counter Measure: Gratitude/Journaling - "I'm glad this happened"
As we contemplate the circumstances that brought us to our current situation, it's common to perceive that the narrative surrounding us has played a significant role in shaping our experiences. While we may have a negative experience that is harmful, continuing to replay the story with ourselves as the victim reinforces the negative mindset we have. To change how we feel about the situation, practicing gratitude for what we do have can change the narrative about our feelings. For some this is best done with journaling, which is a place to process the good and the bad parts of the experience, and where they currently are.
Mind Killer: Suppression - "I don't need to cry"
Counter Measure: Expression/Breath Work - "I need to move this energy"
No matter where you grew up and what your experiences have been, everyone has felt the need to suppress their inner feelings. Whether it's embarrassment to show our feelings, or it's not an available time to have those feelings, suppression is a strategy that can be used correctly, but is often held onto beyond what is needed. Learning to express those feelings is the only way to move on from them. Breath work can help people safely process how they feel, and gives them a strategy to use whenever they feel inner suppression. (Check out our blog about breathing as a training tool to learn more)
Mind Killer: Fear - "I expect the worst"
Counter Measure - Curiosity/Retraining - "This is interesting"
Living in a state of fear causes mental distress, but can also present as physical pain. This is one of the mind killers we most frequently address in physical therapy, as new clients come to us because of physical pain. What they don't realize is that the pain pattern has made them fearful of certain movements and activities, and regardless of if they can do those things, they still have a strong pain response. By learning to approach fearful events with a level of curiosity, you can retrain your reaction to interest of the fearful stimulus.
Mind Killer: Stagnation - "I've hit my peak"
Counter Measure: Growth/Education - "What's next?"
If you think you can or you think you can't, you're right. If you approach each opportunity with the mindset of not being able to do what you once did, then you will learn to be stagnant with your motivation, and your actions will reinforce that feeling. By continuing to grow and educate yourself, you can continue to be excited and motivated to see what's coming next. While our physical bodies may change what they can do over time, our minds can continue to evolve and bring exciting new learnings to keep us motivated and moving.
Mind Killer: Isolation - "I don't need anyone"
Counter Measure: Community/Socializing - "I'm going to reach out"
When we feel that no one is able to help us, we may find ourselves searching inward for solutions, counseling, or comfort. While learning to be independent and self sustaining is a necessary skill to thrive, we know that humans are social creatures, and that we are our best when involved in a community. If you've been a person that isolates yourself, then you've also limited yourself of new information, new relationships, and new acts toward happiness. An intentional practice to reach out and strengthen or build your community returns more than the pain of picking up the phone or sending an email.
Mind Killer: Injury - "Mind over matter"
Counter Measure: Healing/Balance - "Work smarter"
The mind is so powerful that we can use it to out will what the world is giving us. We can use this at times to accomplish amazing and unexpected things. However, if we don't know how to balance ourselves and we are always pushing forward, then we are setting up for failure and disappointment. Giving ourselves space and time to heal, and learning how to maintain a balance of pressing forward and taking what's coming, allows us to work smarter so we don't burn out or burn up.
This framework is a great resource for when you are feeling stuck in one of these mind killers. Having a plan to address what's holding you back is like training your legs to begin your ski or snowboard season. You know that if you don't train your legs, then your body won't be able to handle the stress and the exhilaration of living your best life. Start thinking about your mind in the same way. If you have a known deficit or an upcoming obstacle, start training your mind to overcome that.
Mastering the slopes is a test of your body which requires conquering the mental challenges of the mountain. Snowbeast Performance helps you unlock the full potential of your body and mind, enabling you to ski and snowboard with confidence, resilience, and joy. By learning to sharpen your mental edge and build a supportive community that empowers you to achieve peak performance and well-being, you can elevate your mental game so your mind meets the mountain! #snowbeastperformance