Six Smart Energy Tips
Creating an experience that is enjoyable and fits into your training program and lifestyle increases the likelihood you will repeat the new skill. The following Six Smart Tips can expand your mental/physical athletic training by adding some zest and energy to your overall athletic health and fitness program.
1) Anxiety: Appraising the Mental/Physical Challenge
When your thoughts are in a constant flux of worry about the mental/physical challenge before you, it’s difficult to think clearly and perform physically at the level of your skill capacity. Three typical worries that can drain mental energy are:
a) Worrying about the demands of the task. Example: “I want to be on a team, but I am worried that my skills aren’t strong enough to make the cut.”
b) The athletes perceived ability to cope with the demands of the challenge. Example: “I think my skills are sophisticated enough to play on this team but if I am wrong and am cut on the first day of try-outs, I will feel embarrassed.”
c) Consequences of falling short of meeting the challenge. Example: “If I don’t perform well in the try-outs today I know the coach will not give me a second chance. I have to play my best to have a chance of making the team.”
Reduce performance anxiety by keeping the challenge in perspective. The following are strategies for managing mental gremlins.
a) Realistic Self Talk Strategies:
Example: “I don’t know how my skills and abilities stack up against other players trying out for the team because it’s a new school. I do know that I’ve been playing on club teams for the last 4 years in a different district and even though the club teams I played on didn’t win a championship we did win games and I scored points. I know how to play this game and I would like to try out for this school team. I still feel a little nervous about putting myself out there but my desire to play is greater than my worries.”
b) Coping Strategies:
Example: “In selecting a team the coach first chooses players returning from last year that only leaves four spots remaining for the team and none of the spots are the position I usually play. The chances of making this team are small but I still have an opportunity to try out for a position I haven’t had a chance to play in the past. If I don’t make the school team I can still pursue my sport through other leagues outside of school.”
c) Attitude & Action Strategies:
Example: “I really want to make the school team and even with the awareness that the odds of making the team are slim I will prepare and put out 100% effort. If I don’t make the cut I will at least walk away knowing that I made the commitment to compete for the position and maintained a great attitude pursuing the opportunity. Also, I want the coach to see I am an asset to the team by contributing both player skills and adding positive team energy.”
2) Breath: Managing your body’s reaction to stressors
Simple diaphramatic breathing can be effective in reducing anxiety, muscle tension, fatigue and increase your mental/physical energy. A simple exercise is 4x4x5 breathing.
a) Sitting or standing breathe gently in through your nose or mouth for a count of 4 seconds. Try resting your hand against your abdomen and feel your abdomen rise with the inhalation.
b) Hold the breath for a count of 4 seconds.
c) Slowly exhale through your nose or mouth for a count of 5 seconds or longer, letting your abdomen gently relax as you release the air out from your lungs.
d) Repeat two or three times.
3) Experience: Expand your comfort level.
There’s validity to the expression, “Been there done that.” Familiarity goes a long way in managing stress. Incorporate flexibility and variety into your practice routines. An example of this in the sport of tennis may be if you always practice with the same group of players, make an effort to meet and practice with different players. Seems like simple advice but people have a tendency to stick with routines that bring them comfort. If you are an aspiring junior player compete in some tournaments an age group above you or if you have enough skill enter some adult tournaments for variety. Each opportunity will expose you to new styles of play and broaden your overall athletic experience.
4) Physical Conditioning: Periodization
Periodization is the process of varying a training program at regular seasonal intervals to bring about optimal physical and mental gains. There are typically three phases of periodization: preparation, competitive, and transitional. There are sub-categories within each phase.
a) Preparation is typically used to build a strong aerobic base, and work on technique. It’s a deliberate strategy of exposing the athlete to high-volume and high-intensity training loads.
b) Competitive phase can be made up of several small competitions leading up to a major event.
c) Transition phase is a break from training and competition which is essential for athletes to restore energy by avoiding burn-out and over training. This is a great time to participate in cross training sport activity.
5) Nutrition: Feed your body, fuel your body
If your body isn’t receiving proper food intake and hydration you are limiting your ability to perform optimally. “Bonking,” the expression used to describe depleted muscle glycogen, can cause athletes to hit the wall as can dehydration. Check with a sport nutritionist to help you create the best meal plan selections for your dietary needs.
Who else besides you supports the vision of your athletic and fitness goals? Your teammates, family, friends? It’s highly likely that there will be times when you lose your momentum, desire, energy and the rewards of continuing towards your goals seem too far off in the distance. Develop a healthy support team that you can call upon before you and when you hit those low points in the road. Examples of a good support team are the people you want to spend your free time with! Write down their names and call them :-).