Perception, Athletes, and Everything

Perception, Athletes, and Everything

Athletes perceive things differently.

While the world looks outside and fusses about the things that it cannot change, athletes quietly look inward and change the one thing they can – themselves. We love that challenge to push for that extra rep, go beyond the pain, set a new personal record (PR).

The irony is that Science is showing us how some of this self-perception may actually be wrong.

We All Like a Good Joke

I once thought I was wrong but I was mistaken.
With prolonged participation in sports, athletes develop a sense of humor about things going wrong because it happens to us with a certain regularity.

The missed serve, the trip on a perfectly smooth surface, the dropped gear – we all goof sometimes.

We learn to laugh at ourselves and find a healthy perspective on our performance. This helps to keep our humanity in perspective, as well as keep our minds in our event.

With only some exceptions, athletes are a pretty affable bunch.

The Perception Game

perception athleteScience is now finding that as we exercise, our actions and the perception of those actions are at odds.

Like starting a workout and “hearing” from your body how horrible it feels and you quietly suspect that only a terminal condition could possibly cause such discomfort.

You log a quick mental, “Thank you for sharing” and continue with your workout. All of those disturbing sensations then quietly fade away.

What we perceive and what is physically happening can be completely different events. Science is showing us that the mental boundaries of performance may not always hold true.

Athletes press the outer boundaries of human capabilities on a regular basis. That willingness to get that last additional ounce of exertion from a body already at maximum effort is one of the wonders of the human spirit.

Lies, Lies, and More Lies

As with your mind trying to convince yourself to stop exercising, recent evidence is showing that you may also be stopping your workout too soon.

Studies are finding that there is actually continuing ability for muscles to work, even when the athlete thinks they are finished. So even when we think we’ve done all we can,  we can still have some reserve in the tank.

This is good to know, right?

For anyone who has competed in sport, you know there are those moments when you feel completely depleted but a final challenge arises that you fully engage.  Your internal doubts rage and yet you pull out the needed performance.

Science is now finding that such a hidden store may actually be found in the body.

We can do more than we thought we could.

What This Means for Athletes

perception athleteSome the reporting on these findings have emphasized the deficiencies of how our minds stop us from getting the maximum out of our bodies.

I like to interpret the findings as we have discovered yet another resource!

Yes, the glass is still half full!

I am encouraged to know with some certainty that even when our bodies scream that we can’t do more, we can. We can train our minds to dig deeper.

Imagine the accomplishments we might achieve when we have that much greater faith in our own abilities.

Whether it is setting a PR that no one else will see, or putting in that last ditch effort that wins the game, we owe it to ourselves to find this door within and open it.

I won’t predict anything historic. But nothing is impossible.
-Michael Phelps

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson


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