The Mental Benefits of Individual Sports

For a moment, the sweat dripping into your eyes, your vision blurs. You wipe it away with the back of your hand as your legs pump like pistons, driving your bike forward. Distantly, you hear a voice in your head tell you that you’re hot and tired, but you dismiss it. You’ve got this.

Your individual sport of choice might be mountain biking, or it might be running, boxing, dancing, or picking up a surfboard or kayak. Whatever you choose to do, committing to an individual sport has benefits that go beyond the physical. At the end of a tough day out with yourself, you’re reaping the mental benefits, too.

“Individual sports help to grow your self-confidence,” says Diane Teles, a Johannesburg-based physiotherapist. “You simply have to back yourself and deal with the games that go on inside your head. You’re also likely to develop a deeper sense of responsibility and accountability to yourself as you go up against your own standards.”

Some of the other mental benefits of individual sports are facilitated by the space they create, as Diane explains below.

Space to know and grow

“The best athletes are those who have spent time alone, facing themselves at their weakest moments,” says Diane. “Knowing your body, your abilities and where they can be improved allows you to sharpen your goal setting and training programme to razor-sharp accuracy.” Use a journal, chart or app to monitor your progress and keep you motivated.

Space to hide

When it comes to training, not every day is a stand-out-and-shine day. Most, in fact, are just plain hard work, often riddled with inevitable and necessary mistakes. “It’s important to train without the constant psychological pressure of matching or outperforming your teammates or peers, or of being afraid to show you’re having a bad (read: regular human) day,” says Diane. Be kind to yourself, and use your anonymity to learn and improve.

Space to adapt

“Individual sports allow you to adapt your training according to how your body is feeling on any particular day,” adds Diane. “If you’re carrying an injury, you can afford to slow down and fine tune your technique while you heal.” This is different to team training, where any deviation from what the group is doing might not only affect the team’s performance but also its morale, confidence and motivation.

Perhaps you sometimes train individually but compete in your sport as part of a team. “Don’t forget that a team is made up of successful individuals,” says Diane. “If every athlete in a team brings their best personal performance, the team is unstoppable.” The self-awareness and self-motivation you acquire on your own can be the very thing that takes both your and your team’s performance to the next level.


Choosing the right medical aid is no joke, but we’ll leave you smiling.