A mental block is something that may actually prevent an athlete from progressing. It’s not the same as being anxious, scared or unmotivated. We look at what mental blocks in fitness might look like and how we may overcome them.
Mental blocks are psychological obstacles that prevent someone from doing something. Anyone may struggle with a mental block however they are more common in sports that perhaps you would expect. Sometimes athletes already have the skills they need to overcome their blocks, however, some might not.
Where Do Mental Blocks Come From?
There’s no right answer for this question. Mental blocks are very much an individual “thing”. It might have something to do with an injury in the past, self-confidence or self-esteem issues or a number of other factors. What is important to understand is that a mental block is not a weakness, it is simply an obstacle, and one that with the right focus and with the correct tools can be overcome.
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to why some people are perhaps more susceptible to mental blocks and why some might find them easier to overcome than others. Sport requires an incredible amount of focus, and what is sometimes referred to as “mental toughness”.
Basically, in order to succeed at anything in life, you need the personal skills and tools in place. Sometimes one tool will work fine, other times you might need to have a good look in your toolbox for something else to get the job done. This isn’t “wrong” or “broken”, it is your mind and your body protecting you from something yet allowing you to find an appropriate way forward.
How to Overcome Mental Blocks
As with everything, if you don’t admit or acknowledge that there is an issue, you won’t be able to deal with it effectively. Talk to your trainer, colleagues, and anyone else you feel might be able to help about your mental blocks. You might be surprised to find that you are not alone and that many people, particularly in sport stumble from time to time. The fitness world is naturally a competitive place that is filled with challenges. Acknowledging that you have some problems progressing with a certain event or stage is the first step in finding a way to move forward and is certainly not something shocking or “bad”.
Look at your goals. It might be that the challenges ahead of you appear too big, too lengthy and that something in the road ahead is holding you back. Some find it useful to change their focus somewhat, breaking goals down, moving to the side slightly while still moving forward, in order to get back on track.
A mental block can mean that things will ground to a halt. They could make some people want to throw in the towel and walk away, abandoning their plans altogether. By embracing your blocks, owning them, and seeing them as an issue to be worked on, as opposed to something impossible to overcome, you will be much better placed to identify the source/s of your issue in order to work on breaking down those barriers.
Above all, don’t be too hard on yourself. Embrace mental blocks as part of a journey, not as a failure. Recognise that mental blocks are common, more common than you’d think, and that in time, with the right tools can be overcome. You may well find that you are a better athlete and much more self-aware as a result of experiencing and overcoming mental blocks, which is never a bad thing.