How Mental Training Made All the Difference For Liza Buckner

OneMind Dogs Instructor Liza Buckner from Sebastopol, CA, is one of the lucky people who have recently taken part in Mental Training - Tools for Life online course taught by Janita Leinonen, inventor of the OneMind Dogs Method, and her Mental Coach Anne Talvitie.

Liza’s initial mental training goal was making it to the WAO team again this year, but she admits to feeling intimidated by the teams that she felt were faster or younger. With the help of her mental training learnings, she decided to make a mental plan for the competition. 

These were Liza’s rules: 

I am only going to focus on things that I can directly affect. When I would start thinking about the “what ifs”, I’d remind myself to refocus on what I could do, such as what care I took of myself and my dog, my plan and my execution.

If what I am thinking about makes me feel bad, I must redirect my thoughts elsewhere. The minute I walked into the venue, I started to shrink and have thoughts of “Oh, we are not good enough.” I immediately reminded myself to stop it, and tried to get excited about the opportunity to run really great courses and see where I ended up competing against all these great teams.

Stay in your own circle, especially when there is sharpness about. Let’s face it, we are all high strung at big events and it is easy for people to be terse or snippy. It’s also easy to get derailed from your focus by chatty folks. I was able to say “I have to go now, I need to focus” and be unaffected when someone else seemed not so friendly.

Do “Wonder Woman Pose” for two minutes before every run. OneMind Dogs Assistant Coach Kelly Chaffin taught me this years ago, so I was excited to see it mentioned in the Mental training course. I did the Wonder Woman Pose before every run except Gamblers and then for the last day. By then I had done it so many times that I didn’t feel like I needed it so much.

I also had to change my goal. Having the goal of making the team had to go, because I could not directly affect that. I chose instead that my goal was to plan well, execute well and run so well that I would be thrilled when I crossed the finish line. I achieved that goal more often than not, and I for sure had one of the more thrilling runs of my life when we won Speedstakes Finals!

Photo by Great Dane Photos

The importance of choosing my thoughts

Then I was ready to fix my self-talk and inner critic. This was the most important part for me. My friends, students and teachers have had to put up with me talking about how slow Jefe is. Also, how slow I am because I am old. My coach Rachel Sanders had a very stern talk with me before the Open. She said, “He is who he is and you need to focus on that and run him.” I realized that she was right and this talk did us no good, so I made up some statements to repeat to myself.

When my dog knows where he is going, he will run as fast as he can. This took the place of he is slow, I am slow, and all that. And oh my goodness, yes he did.

I can make good plans. I am a good handler. This was important because I really had to believe what I was saying. 

When I make good plans and execute them well, my dog will run fast and we will do well in the competition. Again, I can get behind those statements, and if we do a good job, then how could I possibly feel badly?

I don’t have to beat the faster teams, they have to beat me. I could directly affect my performance, but had no influence on others. Kelly Chaffin gave me this advice two years ago as well, but this time I really owned it.

Another huge thing was how much I learned when I had one really bad run. All the bad worms got back into my head and tore me away from my mental plan. I realized later that my original plan would have been better for us. I also recognized that I was tired, which is what derailed me. I decided to go home early, have a nice meal and a long soak in the tub before going to bed early. Before I left, I went over to the video folks and watched my winning Speedstakes run 3 or 4 times so that I would take that image and those feelings with me to focus on.

I also learned that when I could get excited about the opportunity to run a course, we ran fast. When I doubted myself, we were slow.

So, how did all of this work for this soon to be 60-year old woman and her little mutt dog? Well, we not only made the team, but we won the Super Win-On spot which guarantees that we get to run in all events at the WAO. We also won the Pentathlon spot, which is what I was gunning for.  Oh yes, and we stood on the top box in Speedstakes, which was a first for me.

There is not a doubt in my mind that it was my mental game that made the difference.  Thank you OneMind Dogs and all you teach me each and every day!

Interested in finding out what mental training can do for you? Sign up for the next course starting in January!


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Deb Marchington3 months ago

Well written article. Thank-you for letting us into some of your innermost thoughts, as they align with some of mine. Nice to know I am not the only person with fear and self-doubt. And Yes, Kelly is a FABULOUS person to have as a foundation!!! I love it when I get to see her.

Amanda Brandenburg5 months ago

Love this!!! Congratulations!!

Patty Martin5 months ago

Wonderful info! Thanks and congrats Liza!

Deise de Oliveira5 months ago

Great article! I was able to take a couple of lessons with Liza this year and I was so excited! Congratulations, Liza!

Laura Bussing5 months ago

Blown. Away.

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