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Mental Aspects of Improving Sports Performance

Contributed by Brittany Deatherage

Improving athletic performance often focuses on physical tools. Athletes look for chances to make their workouts more effective and deliver greater results. Nutrition is another staple, which includes diets with nutrient packed calories.

While diet and training are essential, training your mind for success removes even more barriers. Your sports psychology helps clear huddles that workouts or diets alone cannot. Of course, the mental focus to break plateaus is easier when you eat properly and are in peak condition.

Our sports psychology reflects how our minds prepare for and respond to situations. Most athletes have some form of an Achilles heel. For instance, some athletes are known to thrive under pressure, while others are known to ‘choke’.

For often inexplicable reasons, some players flounder in home stadiums, while exceling on the road. There are multiple reasons why this happens, but sports psychology may be an effective solution for each.

As a track athlete, is your progress stalled by recurring themes? Perhaps it is pre-race jitters or the way you respond to adversity? Athletes of all skill levels can improve their performance with various mind techniques.

So, what are some steps to improve your athletic performance through sports psychology?

Here are some techniques to consider:

Verbal and Image Cues:

Have you seen baseball players perform the same odd rituals before stepping in to bat? A basketball player who talks to himself and takes a deep breath before each free throw?

Words and images are effective ways to redirect focus under stress. Simple words such as ‘focus’ or even slower breathing allows us to be in the moment.

Mental clarity is gaining attention in sports supplements, as well. For instance, maca root and gamma oryzanol are testosterone boosters also used for mood enhancement.

Athletes may use cue words for training and game situations. It is natural to spend time doing things we excel at. Sprinters may neglect weaknesses that prevent them from reaching peak potential. Instead of shrugging  off a liability, the cue word’ balance’  or ‘next level’ can be used to optimize sprinter training.

In fight scenarios, cue words help us think clearly during intense action. Saying ‘focus’ or ‘relax’ at the start of each round can center our attention. Taking a deep breath after a rapid exchange of blows allows a fighter to better harness adrenaline.

Visualization:

Preparation is crucial to success, in sports and otherwise. Athletes who become familiar with what to expect on and off the field may improve their performance.

Do you visualize how your day will go? How your workout will go? Your walk towards the track before a race? Can you picture the surroundings?  Playing these events in your mind makes the twists and turns of game day seem like second nature.

Sports require you to quickly adapt based on various factors. However, visualizing the event from start to finish allows you to anticipate how this may occur. How does each round go? Visualize success but be realistic and anticipate adversity. What is the adversity and how will you respond? By doing so, you are more at ease when challenges arise.

Benefits for Sports and Life:

Cue words and visualization have broad appeal. Responding in rational ways to stressful situations is difficult. Having the confidence to expect success helps us prepare for sports and daily living.

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Chris Lyons is an experienced strength and conditioning coach, having trained athletes of all ages and levels since 2002. Chris specialises in coaching athletes for speed and power specific to fast-moving sports such as rugby league, rugby union, soccer, Aussie rules football etc. Since 2002 Chris has conducted close to 15,000 hours of training and coaching directly with athletes and members of the general population. From this experience comes Sprint Ninja, based on tried and tested training methods combined with up to date research. Chris continues to challenge himself not only as a coach, but also as an athlete, competing in sprinting events, strongman and Olympic-style weightlifting.

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