Long Distance Walking - The Mental Game: Chapter 6 - How do I Manage the Lows?

Long Distance Walking - The Mental Game: Chapter 6 - How do I Manage the Lows?

(One Minute Read)

This aide memoire was originally written for our younger walkers about to embark on a three week adventure on the Annapurna Circuit. It's been incrementally fine tuned since then. You may find it helpful. Feedback and ideas always welcome.

Be sensitive to those less experienced in the group who may now be struggling. Listen out for the sharp word, the biting rebuke, the tart tongue – often from those who are usually far more gentle. Be alert to those who might withdraw into themselves and not say anything. Be aware of yourself doing that too. Be attuned to your own feelings of frustration and irritation. Take some time out if you feel like that. Walk separate from the group for a while – let others know why you are doing so. Once camped find a reflective spot – but don’t withdraw completely. You are part of a team after all and you need to contribute your presence, not separate yourself. The low will not last for long.

Understand your motives for doing this walk. Is it for the companionship of the group? The achieving of something unique? Achieving a personal best in something? The sense of adventures, of exploring and finding out what might be over the next hill? The opportunity to immerse yourself in a different culture, meeting new people and indulging new experiences? Chances are it is all of these things. When you feel those lows coming on, remind yourself of what motivates you. The moments when you achieve your trip goals, which are hopefully daily occurrences, will be moments of reward and satisfaction. Build on them.

Rather than focus on how tough everything is, think about more mundane things. It’s a tactic employed by some of the world’s top sports people. They focus on every day objects. Tennis great Andy Murray works with sport psychologists who have helped him improve his game. “When my mind’s clear I can go on the court and play, not worry about anything else. I can play and think a lot better on the court. Blocking out distraction and being able to focus on just you, your racquet, the ball and the court will improve your performance no end. A simply way to do this is to give yourself a cue word, often something which helps you focus on your goal or your strength, so that whenever you find yourself getting distracted, retreating this word brings you back into your bubble and focusing on your next move.”[1] A common trick of the soldier is to think about the cadence or rhythm of their foot steps which helps them focus on the outcome and provides as pleasant a focus as possible given the circumstances.

[1] Sports psychologist Josephine Perry in “Train Like a Top Player” The Times, 7 July 2017 https://performanceinmind.co.uk


Chapter 7: What Happens if I Get Ill?

Chapter 5: The Group

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