I hope you've all been watching the Olympics - not just the swimming but as many sports as you can. There have been some truly inspirational performances from British athletes, Mo Farah, Jess Ennis, Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton and just about any rower you can think of!
What you may not have seen, or paid much attention to is how in the post event interviews all of the GB athletes said how amazing the crowds have been and how their support spurred them on to go harder, faster and for longer. So this got me thinking about a proven psychological concept of external motivation and how people generally perform better with encouragement during their performance than without.
So that raises a series of interesting questions (which I don't have the full answers for).
1 - Why do we need external encouragement to push ourselves to the maximum?
2 - What would happen if an athlete ALWAYS trained in front of a loud, encouraging crowd during physically demanding training?
3 - Are there athletes who are able to push themselves absolutely to the maximum without having a crowd?
A coaching friend friend of mine has a great analogy for this idea that external forces can make us push ourselves harder. He talks about how our mind is like an over protective parent, telling us "trying this hard might be bad for us, and we're not used to it so we should stop". The crowd or coach or self motivation in great athletes is like the voice of that cool uncle who tells you "it's OK to do some stupid things, go faster, go further, make it hurt". Maybe we should listen to the cool uncle a little bit more and ignore the sensible voice in our heads telling us to stop because training is hard??
Who will you listen to?