Unlocking Your Combination
The idea of readiness in sports can be a tricky thing. The myth of needing to get fired up for most athletes is just that, a myth. Every sport has its own unique intensity requirements (think hitting a golf ball vs. playing offensive line in football) and, each person has his or her own ideal level of intensity to achieve optimum performance.
Ideal Level of Intensity to Achieve Optimum Performance
Chances are, this is already built into your routine. You get your heart rate up, get sweaty and get your body ready to compete.
Mentally you need to be focused and free of worry to perform your best.
For many athletes this is a missing link, since most of us don’t learn the value of calming our minds. However, many athletes have the experience where they stumble upon a calm day.
Athletes tend to describe this day as easy, effortless or simple and confidence soars.
A Calm Mind is Key
A calm mind is key to reaching this ideal zone. How do you create this magic combination of mind and body? Here are a few tips.
To raise the intensity of your warm-up, challenge yourself. If you normally finish your warm-up at a level 6 (out of 10), set a goal to go hard in your warm-up and get to a level 9. See how this impacts the early stage of your competition.
CALMING YOUR MIND
Breathe — Early and often. Slow, deep breaths are simple and effective. They work best if you build a conditioned response (teach your body to relax through breathing). However, anyone can reap some benefits to slowing down to breathe and relax.
Progressive Relaxation — There’s great research behind this technique, which relaxes your body through repeatedly contracting and then relaxing your major muscle groups. Find a muscle group where you carry a lot of stress (neck, back and shoulders are common areas) and tense them as tight as you can, count to three, release. Repeat.
The last step is to personalize it by considering your sport and your personality.
Set goals for your ideal combination.
For example, on a scale of 1-10 (1 low intensity, 10 very high intensity) set goals that look something like this:
Physical Intensity = 8, Calm Mind = 4.
Once you’ve set your goal, practice!
When you’ve gotten the hang of your magic combination in practice, it’s time to take into competition.
Erika Westhoff is a CEO and certified mental trainer at Mental Training, Inc. in Pleasanton.