Mental skills for walkers

Mental skills for walkers

Your mental approach is key to success and enjoyment outdoors - whether you are undertaking a long distance walk, bagging a Scottish Munro, tackling a Himalayan giant or trekking across the Rockies.

Long distance walking, hill walking, scrambling and mountaineering are all rewarding and exhilarating activities. The physical challenges are only one aspect of the strengths required to succeed. The key other area, which plays a major part in your long-term enjoyment of your activity, is your mental strength. How often have you questioned why you are out in miserable weather, have so far to go, feel exhausted and fatigued, have sore feet and haven't even seen the top?

How often have you questioned why you are out in miserable weather, have so far to go, feel exhausted and fatigued, have sore feet and haven't even seen the top?

Motivation  

Such questions can be controlled and diminished with a basic understanding of motivation and mental toughness. The first step to understanding the above is your motivation. You have to want your mountain days for whatever reasons. If your motivation is strong then the rest is relatively straightforward.

The other key areas of mental training are:

Goal setting: Why not try setting a shared goal with a partner or club - it could really motivate you.
Concentration: This is usually affected by uncomfortable situations, equipment or weather. Keeping your gear in good working order and knowing your own limits in terms of skill and fitness can aid it. If conditions are poor then some imagery of how a good day feels or looks can help. Positive conversations with partners can boost things greatly.
Confidence: This is personal but you must have a positive mental attitude to your journey or the mountains. It does not mean being over-confident, but confident enough that your own abilities will see you and others through the challenges of the trip. Those with good self-esteem are more likely to succeed than those with low self-confidence. Tactics which can help this are:
Positive self talk: i.e. 'I/we can do this', 'Yes, the weather is poor, but we have the skills and equipment to cope'
Positive imagery: Think about success, or a positive situation.
 
Picture a positive situation © LoloStock
Positive imageryControl

Your control of the situation and your mental approach is affected by all of the above. It is primarily based on how apprehensive you get. If you become over anxious your performance will suffer. Be proactive and anticipate problems before they occur. You may need to change your route because of incoming weather, or how you or one of your party are feeling - share thoughts with partners and group.

The area of mental skills and techniques is fundamental to continued success and development. Goal setting is a hugely important element to this. There are many publications, web sites and articles by mountaineers and athletes, which give testament to some of the above. Wherever you are remember that 'Success is a journey, not a destination' and all experiences can be added to a positive learning curve.

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