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What My Christmas Gift Taught Me About Mental Training!

Mindset Made Simple Tip #77 – Watch or listen HERE!

Two weeks before Christmas my friend and former Olympian, Michelle Venturella and I set our sights on beginning a new program to work with her injured athletes as they return to campus this month.

This is a cool gift, but not the one to which the title of this article refers.


That gift is allowing me to learn, first-hand, how her injured athletes are feeling.

I got an ankle fracture and a walking boot for Christmas! Oh, joy! 😊

My first thought… "who is going to clean my house before our Christmas company arrives?”

My second thought (maybe my first, if I am being honest) was “how am I going to workout?”

Upon hearing of my injury, my sister told my dad that she may revisit her planned trip home if I could not exercise the whole time. Was she implying I would not be a happy camper 😊?

Fortunately, my other good friend, CSU Head Athletic Trainer, Jackie Wise, gave me the lowdown on what I could do, knowing I would go nuts if I had to stay out of my home gym for a month or more!

As I look back at my thought process, I realized one thing that is so important as we face any type of setback or injury.

My question was “what can I do?”

Of course, I did take inventory of all the things I could not do.

No running. No hiking in the 50+ weather we have had in Ohio. No dynamic HIIT training. No walking around the park with my son as he practices on his new longboard.

No lots of stuff!

Unfortunately, when our athletes face injury, all they hear and think is what they CAN’T DO. “Can’t do” becomes their pervasive thought process which can affect them both mentally and physically.

BUT…we can help them get out of this “can’t do” mentality and heal and improve in the meantime.

Our first goal should be to get them to utilize visualization in a few different ways.

Research shows that visualization or mental rehearsal of skill actually works!!

It stimulates the areas of the brain that make our muscles perform the skills we are rehearsing in our mind’s eye!

We know our injury will limit physical skill work, but skill visualization or mental rehearsal done right off the bat can help our athletes retain powerful images of their recent (or past) performances. Watching videos of past performances and then rehearsing them over in their minds helps athletes retain their motor skills even though they may not be able to move that part of their bodies!

So, we can keep our motor skills sharp without being able to move! How awesome!

I have been jumping a lot of rope lately (in my mind). I don’t jump a lot of rope normally (I go through spells of loving my jump rope), but I figure this is something I need a strong ankle to do, so I am picturing myself jumping with speed and power. I have also been watching my left calf muscle engage when I am doing things with my right leg…and watching full extension of my ankle joint as I extend my other ankle.

We’ll see what the doctor says today about my progress (and what he says about riding a bike and my rowing machine – in my boot, of course)!

We talk a lot about rehearsing skills, but visualization can also be used to promote healing and relaxation when athletes are dealing with pain related to rehab.

In fact, research shows that athletes who have been given detailed information about their injury along with the healing and rehab process, particularly when pictures of the injured areas are shared and described, have a better understanding of the plans to return to play.

This detailed information can also help the athlete practice what is called healing imagery in which the athletes “see” healing occurring in the injured area. They can also work to “feel” tissues getting stronger by imagining that their ligaments are being weaved together or feel strong as steel.

Whether our athletes are using mental rehearsal of past performances (their highlight reel) or imagining healing happening in the injured area, getting them engaged in a practice that makes them feel like they have some control over their progress is vital.

Lastly, getting them to think about what they CAN DO is just as important.

When our kids were injured, we had a list of “upper-body injury options” and “lower-body injury options”. These were meant to keep them engaged with the team AND as fit as possible as they recovered.

Getting them to think about ALL they CAN DO to improve while injured is motivating as well. How can they improve their skills or game sense since they must observe more or slow things down?

This is a great time to focus on little things that get overlooked when we can go full tilt!

Knowing my cardio output was going to be minimized by not being able to run, I purchased heavy ropes and LOVE THEM! This is a huge plus for my workout routine and I can see changes in my strength already.

Had I not ended up with an ankle fracture, I would have stuck to my old routines and not found this awesome new addition to my gym!

There are good things that can come from injury, but it takes some work to hunt for them – and they may need some help doing it! It’s an extension of training ourselves to look for the bright spots and using them to our advantage!

It all starts with flipping our mindset from the limitations of injury to the all-important questions of “what can I do?!”

Rehearsing our past, seeing and feeling our healing, and imagining our future can help us emerge from our setback stronger!

I am sure that my attitude and desire to keep moving will help my recovery and help keep me sane as I move through the next few weeks with my boot. I will continue to “jump rope” and see myself running and training even better than before my injury.

Keeping our athletes looking to the future and feeling strong, even when they may be physically weaker at the moment, will help them in their rehab AND with their confidence as they return to play.

As with all aspects of performance, how we think about our injury matters. In fact, our mind may be the most important rehab tool we have!

Time for me to go do my heavy ropes! 😊

Happy New Year! Wishing you a great first week of 2022!


Julie Jones

Certified Mental Performance & Mindset Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946

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