I've got mental stamina on the brain.

mental stamina mindset Apr 18, 2023

Mental stamina is on my mind. I just finished my week-long national specialty in Sacramento, plus the two cross-country (mostly) solo drives. It was a three-week journey that required a LOT of mental stamina.

At every juncture, how can we expect to perform well in our next event if we're too "spent" from what we just completed (a drive or a long day of competition, for example)? Developing reliable mental stamina - in ourselves and our dogs - requires us to know how to recover and recharge. Think of it as two sides of the same coin.

We tend to build mental stamina organically or just by repeating the same activities again and again until they become easier. Think of the first time you spent the whole day at a trial and how tired you were verses now - it's easier than it used to be. You grew that stamina organically.

But we can't exactly "practice" two cross-country drives with seven days of competition sandwiched in the middle - not for our dogs or us. So we have to consciously build that stamina along with the systems of recovery to be successful.

Before I share the "how," I acknowledge that some personality types thrive from the energy these events and circumstances create - YAY! if that's you! But even if you are exhilarated, your dog may not be, so the skills are still important.

So how do we develop our "stamina muscle" non-organically? If we use the muscle analogy, we know muscles need both exertion and recovery. We also know that muscle memory can be created through repeated visualization.

We can't convince our dogs to visualize, but we can put them in environments that will help them build stamina. On the flip side, we need to protect the rituals and habits that allow them to rest and recharge.

Before my specialty, I planned out each day - I wrote it out and thought about where I would crate them and what they needed to acclimate and feel secure. I thought about what I could control and focused on executing those things. I made sure I had their cooler for jackpot treats and all the correct leashes in all the right places. So when curve balls occurred - and they did - it didn't overwhelm my dogs or me.

I did the same thing for myself. Planned it all out including my clothes and food. I had my tea kettle and instant oatmeal and enough bars for an apocalypse. I knew when I would need rest and time alone, and I set boundaries. I also visualized. A LOT. I saw us in the hotel room and driving to various events. I imagined our different set-ups as well as bathing Indie. I got things wrong of course (I had our room backward), but most of it became familiar though I had never been to any of the sites. In this way I was able to make the unknown familiar and reduce both the variables and stress.

In those moments where there is a lot of unknowns, the trick is to focus on how we want to feel and make the feeling the goal. Yes, I had outcome "hopes" but those we not top of mind. I created my process goals for each event and class and stuck to most of them (ha - no one's perfect!). In the end, I was both successful from an outsider's view (aka pretty ribbons) and successful in creating a wonderful week for all four of us! (Also, my dogs had perfect poops for three straight weeks, so that counts for something, right?)

We can all improve our mental stamina if we invest time and attention. By learning we can survive "good stress" we become more resilient in all areas. Same goes for our dogs.

Listen to the recent podcast for more!

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