JUST DO IT!
Whether competing in athletics, trying to lose weight for a special occasion, getting more fit or nailing a job interview, I truly feel that grooming skills that enhance achievement are invaluable. That is why a few weekends ago I attended a fantastic sports psychology seminar with Dr. Melissa Hungalvay, Institute of Sport Science. I was thrilled to learn skills that I could use when competing and in everyday life.
When competing, Dr. Hungalvay pointed out that our thoughts and feelings dictate our performance. From my experience, it is easier said than done when not competing well or losing (don’t we all hate to lose!). Having positive thoughts or even giving ourselves a pep talk when down will help elevate performance and achieve personal goals like getting more fit. Also, calm breathing techniques help as well – breathing evenly (inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth), not short and shallow, help with maintaining a more positive outlook and keep the body calm when in a stressful situation or competition – just breathe!
According to Dr. Hungalvay, proper training and preparation will get you into the zone (and create your best performances) more often. Of course proper preparation takes many hours, but the better the preparation for any task, the more you will feel confident in a pressure situation whether it is a job interview or intense sports competition. Being confident in any task, it is imperative to know your strengths and what will enhance overall achievement and goals. Confidence is believing we can succeed and truly begins with how we think, thus developing mental toughness, a key component to success in any task or competition.
The first component of mental toughness is to define what it feels like to play or perform at your best. If we don’t know what we want and where we want to go then we are likely to waste time and energy only to remain in the same place. Achieving mental toughness, according to Dr. Hungalvay, we should focus on the following:
- Define what a good performance looks like in order to have a benchmark to strive for – what does it feel like to play or perform our best on the playing field or in a job or personal situation.
- Create a goal setting plan on how to get there. In many situations it is difficult to choose a path or road, but choosing a road is better than not choosing one at all, which can lead to indecisiveness and stagnation.
Lastly, one skill that I have used in the past to help with performance is imagery. Mental skill practice requires repetition, the same way technical skills require repetition and imagery is an effective practice. It is not only visualization, but incorporating all the senses to recreate an experience or simulation of actually performing.
For instance, when I tested for my Level 5 Pilates Certification I used imagery. I went through every exercise (over 50) in my mind -- transitions, breathing, body positions and proper technique. By vividly recreating or creating the experience your body will respond as if you were actually doing it. Practice it enough and it will become automatic and hopefully boost your best performances.
Stay positive and believe -- Suzanne
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