Dr. Elizabeth Hedgpeth bears no resemblance to your typical sport psychologist. She wore no running shoes, polo shirt or stripped gym pants when she showed up to speak in front of a small triathlon club. Instead, she greeted athletes at the door with shoulder-length white hair, red lips, painted nails, trendy glasses, and colorful dress clothes.
She opened her presentation by proudly announcing that she was in her 70s. After a successful and fulfilling career as a registered nurse, she went back to school to pursue a PhD in sport psychology while in her 50s. An author and adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Hedgpeth, has a unique ability to captivate an audience with her humor, wit, and ability to connect with the part of the mind that motivates an athlete.
On that day, in a room full of hungry endurance athletes, her message was simple and firm: Life and sport can co-exist, but you should never take it so seriously that you define yourself by your successes, your failures, your jobs or your responsibilities.
With just a few attitude and thought adjustments, you have the power to affect your outcomes. In short, a negative attitude is an easy way to increase your chances of poor performance. A positive attitude, on the other hand, is a good way to increase you chances of performing at your best.
Dr. Hedgpeth believes in five key concepts that contribute to athletic success. Beyond the gym, however, these are also essential life lessons.
1. Be Happy
Have fun participating in your sport and have a passion for doing what you're doing. Ask yourself why you train and why you compete. Happiness comes first; success comes second.
2. Quiet Your Mind
Having a quiet mind helps you stay centered. When you have a quiet mind, you're better able to make good decisions. When your lungs are burning, your legs are tired, and you begin to doubt your ability to keep going, focus on your breath and quiet your mind. If you need to slow down a little, slow down. When you relax your mind, it's easier to make decisions that help you to continue moving forward.
Some chatter can be helpful, such as the pre-race jitters that get you pumped up before a race. It's when anxiety starts to take hold that you should return to your breath and take back the controls.