Sport, mental health and journalling

Sport, mental health and journalling

Guest writer - Calum Pettitt, Sport in Mind®

Journals are an analogue tool in an increasingly digital world.

When everything else seems to be moving at a million miles per hour, journals give us the opportunity to slow down, assess, and plan in a way that suits us. Your journal can be your calendar, notebook, training planner, and even sketchbook – all in one place.

A journal allows us to assess the past, organise the present, and plan for the future, all while providing a framework for creativity, mindfulness, and reflection.

For those newer to their chosen sport, journals help track the basics in those early stages where we aren’t always quite sure of what to do. For more experienced athletes, journals provide an opportunity for development and assessment of what is and what isn’t working as we move into more advanced methods of training where small margins make a big difference.

This allows us to focus on the positives, all while identifying what isn’t working as part of our training so we can make amendments that can help us get the maximum benefit from sport.

Run Journal

Psychologically Speaking

Like many, I started to really focus on individual sport, in particular running, during the first lockdown. Prior to that, I would venture out every so often – when the motivation was there. I had found myself with lots of free time after being placed on furlough and was determined to take something positive out of a negative situation.

As is the case with most inexperienced runners, I just grabbed the first pair of trainers I saw and got out there. I struggled along and made some steady progress. I ran through little niggles caused by wearing footwear that wasn’t quite right for how I planted my foot, and eventually had to take a break as it became more painful.

Initially, I didn’t think to record how my running was going and, most importantly, I didn’t listen to what my body was telling me. But once I began to take part in reflective practice and actively planning my training, my love for running really took off and I was hooked.

I felt my confidence and enjoyment grow – it was hugely beneficial during lockdown. Even now, running is still a hugely important part of my weekly routine and I continue to reflect, plan, and assess my progress.

In a time where it is easy to scroll through running apps and compare yourself to other runners, a Run Journal gives us an opportunity to pursue a calmer, more reflective, and self-caring approach to training. Research has shown that taking time to self-reflect and creating a vision for the future can boost our well-being on several levels.

Self-reflection is incredibly important when it comes to running. I’m sure all runners have had the feeling of not being able to face another run on that route, or up that hill, or even just frustration as times stagnate. A Run Journal encourages us to take a step back and focus on what we enjoy and find beneficial about running.

Summer runner

Goal Setting

Every runner has a goal in mind. You could be trying to complete your first 5K without walking, rebuild after an injury, or trim some time off your ultra-marathon. Whatever your goal might be, your journal can be a powerful tool that help you achieve it.

It has been shown that the act of physically writing something down signals to your brain that a goal is important, making us more likely to follow through and achieve it. This is an amazing benefit of journalling and is because writing by hand engages multiple senses – visual, kinaesthetic, tactical – which isn’t the case with most digital alternatives.

In addition, writing things down helps us to externalise thoughts. This helps us to clear mental space, allowing us to think more clearly and concentrate on what is most important in that moment – enjoying the run!

Sport in Mind T shirt in badminton court

Sport in Mind®

Sport in Mind® is an award-winning mental health charity (unaffiliated to Mind and not part of the local Mind network) that was formed in Reading, Berkshire, in 2010 with a simple mission:

To improve the lives of people experiencing mental health problems through sport and physical activity.

Sport in Mind® is the UK’s leading mental health sports charity and delivers physical activity (sport, walking, dance and movement, gardening, and exercise sessions) projects in partnership with the NHS to aid recovery, promote mental wellbeing, improve physical health, combat social isolation and empower people to move their lives forward in a positive direction.