on what sport can tell us about our mental state

… and why we shouldn’t ignore those signs


Sport, in my case especially outdoor, obviously tells us a lot about our physical fitness. It tells us if we are trained at all or not. And well-trained sportspersons immediately know if they are having a good day or not.


But beside the physical aspects such kind of sport also tells us a lot about our mental state.


I remember a particular day I went snowboarding on my own. And like mostly when I go on my own I don’t take many breaks and like to challenge myself. Hence, at the end of that day I chose a not so easy valley run down through a forest. It was actually a slope, but due to the heavy snowfalls over the previous days it turned out to be a pretty tricky, zigzag transverse along the mountain with a one side open deep down fall – and it was extremely icy. First it went ok, but it got more and more narrow and steep. My legs were tired and I felt some instability. I started to feel scared, knowing if I’d gained too much speed and fell over on the wrong side I’d fall down the cliff. 

I felt that an old fear took over me. 

So I stopped. I faced the slowly lowering sun and the path in front of me. I knew and told myself that this current fear has nothing to do with my actual snowboard skills. I knew they are good enough to master this downhill – if I concentrate and pull myself together. And in that moment I had to acknowledge that my current state was nothing else than a mirror of my mental state, which wasn’t alright at these days. For days I was carrying some emotional issue with me, which hit me quite deeply and unexpected. Instead of giving it space I distracted myself with a lot of sport. It went ok as long as the sport was not challenging.

But this downhill was challenging.

I draw a deep breath in, faced my way to go and assured myself that this is going to be alright. I made it down safely.

And then I knew, just like I had to concentrate on getting down I have now to face my emotions and to give them space. However, different to my snowboarding, this issue was not alone in my own power to solve. So it was even more important to realize what kind of control it actually took over me for a short moment up in the mountain. For a moment it made me feel unsecure in something I am actually good and experienced at. 


I had a similar situation once during a yoga lesson. Normally quite good at balancing poses I could hardly hold even the easiest one. In such situations we tend to suddenly question our abilities or start to become inpatient. Truth is, it is just and simply a mirror of our current emotional state. If we aren’t in balance our body can’t be either.


So instead of becoming inpatient and harsh to ourselves, we need to acknowledge it.  We need to be kind and patient with ourselves. At the yoga class it meant that that day wasn’t meant to challenge myself but rather to relax in soft poses and spending time to self-care and with loved ones – and most importantly to allow the feeling of pain.


On that day in the mountains it meant to focus (because there was no way back) but also to acknowledge it and to take care of it later in the same way as just described; kindness, patience, self-care, and spending quality time with loved ones.


Sport to “distract” yourself from a monkey mind or a situation you don’t want to think anymore isn’t bad per se but be mindful to recognize when it turns from a healthy training and pleasure into loosen connectivity to yourself and herewith to your body and the control of it.


Our body, not only when it comes to sport, but also concerning a lot of physical health issues, tells us a lot about our mental state. Listen carefully.



Additional note for those who practice yoga; yoga is first and foremost a philosophy and involves so much more than just asanas (postures). If you feel tired, sad or painful (physically or emotionally) it doesn't make sense to push yourself into a posture you don’t feel comfortable with. Whereas it is totally different when you feel good and in balance; then it is a wonderful way to take you out of your comfort zone by trying a difficult asana (e.g. head stand) to realize what more is possible.