The finals season see many athletes looking for a sporting advantage. This article examines some tips from elite athletes on getting the most out of your big event. In the lead-up to a major event most people get anxious. I have covered some relaxation tips in previous articles but what happens if you need to get "fired up?" How can you "lift" for the big occasion?
Here are some skills for increasing activation and energy. These will be useful for generating energy on short notice or when brief powerful bursts are needed. For example, you are playing in the big footy game. The pre-game tension has gone and your team is travelling really well. You have become relaxed in the pattern of the game and comfortable in knowing you are going to win. Suddenly, you have to respond to a few quick goals against you. How do you lift and stop any momentum moving in the opposition's favour?
The first step is to know when you need to lift. Your coach and teammates should help you be sensitive to this optimal level of energy. And you need to be aware of how to recognize signs and symptoms of low energy. An example might be that "dead leg" feeling towards the end of the game. Again, chatting to your coach will help be awareness of when you NEED to lift is the first step.
Next, breathing control not only helps relax your mind and muscles but can also help get you ready for the next sprint. If you need to lift for the next play then try this: consciously increase the rhythm of your breathing and imagine with each inhalation that you are generating more energy. Try and feel in full the energy building just like petrol into a tank.
Also try using energizing imagery (also called mental rehearsal). Try and picture something powerful. It could be an image of a train that is just beginning to move and building momentum or a drag car as the engine roars and the car surges forward. Some athletes have an image of their favourite athlete in full flight. They can see and hear their hero as he/she performs the skill. Some Olympic track sprinters explain they imagine a bullet being loaded into a gun and then fired out with explosive force. There are literally hundreds of images that you can find so think of something that works for you. The aim is to "feel" the power from this image so you can lift for the big occasion.
Music is also a powerful way to pump yourself up. The availability of Mp3's, iPods etc makes it easy to have a host of songs that get you activated. These "power songs" are good to have ready when you need maximum effort. For example, an Olympic discus thrower listens to relaxing music while waiting for his turn. As he starts his warm-up he would change tracks to increase the tempo of the music. Just before he was called into the throwing circle he would be listening to the music he found most energizing. His event required maximum power and this technique helped get him results.
These are some tips from the top athletes on ways to get fired up for an event. Whether you are playing local netball or doing a fun run these will be useful skills to develop to get that advantage you need.
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover.html