In the drive to get faster, the mind is often an untapped resource. Utilizing a variety of sports psychological skills can enhance performance, improve consistency in training and competition, and minimize or eliminate undesirable mental states, such as anger, frustration, and burnout. Although most athletes understand that their psychological status influences performance, too few actively use the skills necessary to help themselves. Frequently, after a poor race, the psychological factors go unrecognized and the athlete blames other aspects (e.g., diet, training). This article will introduce a few basic tools which may help you feel better in your training and give you that extra edge in racing.
One concept to appreciate is that the level of mental arousal influences performance. If this level is either too high or too low then performance suffers. The ideal zone is right in the middle. A common problem for some athletes is that they get "too keyed up". This excessive level of arousal leads to increased muscular tension, poor decision making, loss of concentration, and disrupted rhythm and co-ordination. Recognizing and controlling the level of arousal is important to maximize athletic achievement. Some of the skills useful to regulate arousal (up or down) are visualization, centering, progressive muscular relaxation, and positive self-talk. In addition to regulating arousal these skills have a number of other benefits.
Visualization, centering, and progressive muscular relaxation should be done several times a day in training to get you prepared for their use in competition. Developing these skills takes practice, but it is well worth the effort. Once refined and incorporated into your routine you will be amazed at the results.
(see also pre-race nervousness)
Reference: Clinical Sports Medicine. P. Brukner, K. Khan. McGraw-Hill Book Co. Sydney. 1993
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