For Kingsley Ijomah when it comes to preparing mentally for a competition and maintaining a healthy mindset it really does come down to mind over matter. “Being a successful rower is 70%in your head” says Kingsley.
“Mental preparedness and training your mind as hard as you train your body is crucial.”
For Kingsley there is never a day when he wakes up and can’t face training or when he feels like taking a day off. “For me rowing is both a passion AND an obsession. I just don’t identify with the ‘can’t be bothered’ mindset. My entire life is structured around rowing, from what I eat, to when I sleep, even where I live; everything is dictated by rowing and I make that sacrifice because I love what I do”
“I just don’t identify with the ‘can’t be bothered mindset’. My entire life is structured around rowing, because I love what I do.”
Training Your Mind
Kingsley is a man whose Coach has words with him to slow down, never is he told to try harder or push himself further; that he can certainly do all by himself. For Kingsley, a man that when you speak to him over the phone you can hear the smile in his voice, a man that always sees the positive in things, the postponement of Tokyo 2020 was a real blow. “Hearing the news about the Paralympics was the only time I’ve ever really felt stressed. There was real panic, that all the training I’d put in to get the power, the speed, the stamina would have to continue for another 12 months. As a part time Paralympian, I was getting up at 4.30 to train in the gym then do a full day’s work as a Programmer before returning to the gym.” However, the stress didn’t last long for Kingsley as he very quickly tapped into the opportunity rather than the disappointment. “Once I really thought about it I released that with an additional 12 months I could get even better, I could generate more sponsorship, I could work with other professionals to become stronger, quicker and ultimately a better athlete.”
Finding then maintaining a positive mindset is a challenge but one Kingsley has mastered. His secret is simply, never to give up. If Kingsley sets a target he always hits it. “Your body tells you when you are done, not your mind. Too many people give up on something before they’ve tried, or they reach a point where they feel tired so stop. I don’t do that; I go until I physically cannot go any further. I’ve trained my mind never to quit.”
“Your body tells you when you are done, not your mind.”
The Loneliest Time of All
Kingsley never feels more alone than when he is at the start line for a race. Just the gentle hum of the drone overhead, all spectators out of sight and earshot at the finish line; just him and his competitors. For the untrained mind this is easily the point when panic sets in, checking out the competition, trying to remember the breathing pattern, wondering how the disappointment of last place might feel. But not for Kingsley. He has developed routine to focus and prepare his mind for a race. “Once I’ve warmed up and completed my routine checks on the kit I close my eyes and run through the race in my mind. I imagine pulling away at the start, my breathing routine, the speed I plan to go at different points of the course and how I’ll feel when I hear the crowds and empty the tank as I glide over the finish line. I ignore the competition in every race. Each competition I’m racing myself, I don’t look at anyone else I don’t even think about them, I stay faithful to MY race.”
It didn’t always come so easily to Kingsley, there have been times when the competition has tried to get in his head, but the challenge, even if they do try to put you off, is to hear their words as a challenge, the opportunity to show them what you are capable of, and that’s just what Kingsley does.
Knowing what you want to achieve in each race, setting time goals and allowing for weather conditions is a focus. “When I’m at the club I sometimes hear people come in off the water complaining about the wind or the rain, but for me I see that as an opportunity. The weather on a race day isn’t guaranteed. I embrace the chance to row in the wind and rain as I’m preparing myself for those conditions and becoming a better rower.”
Even when he’s not in the water or at the gym, Kingsley uses meditation apps to help train his thoughts and during meditation he goes over his rowing from the day, reliving what went well, what didn’t,where he can improve, stroke by stoke, minute by minute, considering every last detail.
“Everything is connected, your mental state, your desire to win, your physical ability all this together is what makes you a powerful athlete. There is no one key to success, there is no secret, you have to put in the work, physically and mentally and it will payoff.”
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