Part of our series on mental training for sport, the sport psychologist Dr Josephine Perry gives tips on overcoming setbacks to training
The first thing I always advise athletes who are facing a setback is to understand the elements you are in control of and the elements you can’t control. This helps to break down the problem you are facing so that you can take steps to control it.
If the setback is injury or sickness-related, these steps may focus on making an action plan to get you healthy and fit again through physio, strength and conditioning work and rest as required to focus on future injury-prevention.
If the setback came from a poor result in competition then looking at exactly what caused the result such as a lack of training, low technical skills, tiredness or not practising on the course will give you some key actions to take forward.
The more of these elements you can highlight, the more detailed and effective the action plan will be.
But here are my top five tips:
1. Try not to think ‘black and white’. This can be very easy to do when a setback has just happened and leads to catastrophic thinking. Take a step back from the situation before you reflect on it.
2. Sit down with someone else and work out which elements of the setback you had some control or responsibility over.
3. From these elements create an action plan to overcome the setback.
4. Include within your action plan the elements you did well so they are acknowledged and incorporated in your plan.
5. After some time think about how you can reframe that setback. What good came of it? What did you learn from it?
» See future editions of Athletics Weekly magazine for more from our ‘on the couch’ column