Your Inner Athlete column: Boost your high intensity training |

Your Inner Athlete column: Boost your high intensity training

Editor’s note: This is the first column in a two-part series.

Sport psychology is the science of achieving peak performance. We all know any sport or physical activity, at its highest level, requires a great deal of mental toughness to make it possible to sustain motivation, confidence, intensity, focus and emotional control.

We think with our entire body. What we say (to ourselves or to someone else) affects how we feel. How we feel affects how we behave. How we behave affects what we achieve. Thus, we must learn to effectively talk to our bodies so we can optimize our performance.

In sport psychology, we use the terms “association” and “dissociation” to describe two skills we use to control our inner dialogue and, ultimately, enhance performance.

These two skills can be used to save and direct our energy as needed.

Today, we look at how to properly use association, in high intensity training, to optimize your overall performance.

These recommendations are based on two decades of research in sport and exercise science and have been proven to work.

The skill of association

Simply put, association is meant for you to tune into your training with 100 percent focus on one thing. By doing this, it actually blocks out any other distractions. For example, if you are on a bike, you can focus on maintaining your cadence. If you are completing the last few repetitions of your final set of squats, you can focus on your breath. The purpose is to become completely immersed in one part of your performance.

At any point, when your sport or fitness requires high intensity bouts of energy, use association. Tuning in to the work at this time and focusing on things such as your breath, time, heart rate or stroke rhythm can help you to cope with any discomfort while still providing the necessary energy and effort to produce positive results.

Think about your last high intensity training session. When you felt your body becoming weak, where did your attention go? Chances are, without a strategic mental toughness plan, you involuntarily switched from a mindset of determination, confidence and pleasure to thinking about your fatigue and frustration.

Since mental fatigue often comes before physical fatigue, you must quickly apply your mental energy to focus on function, form and technique so that your body can continue to propel you.

In moments of high physical exertion, experiment with focusing on a specific goal that centers on your breath, heart rate, footwork, etc. By focusing much needed mental energy to the task at hand, you’ll experience an incredible boost in your overall performance.

Next time, we’ll focus on specific ways the skill of dissociation works to produce your personal best results.

With a Ph.D. in sport and exercise psychology, Haley Perlus is a professor, three-time author, international speaker and Peak Performance consultant. For more free tips and videos, go to or call 303-459-4516.

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