Over the years, research in psychology and neuroscience has increasingly played a significant role in enhancing athletic performance. It is evident that incorporating psychological techniques has helped athletes reach their full potential.
Successful athletes recognize the importance of mental preparation as a vital component of their training. They understand that performance extends beyond physical skills and requires a harmonious blend of mental and physical focus to achieve peak performance readiness.
Pre-performance routines form a crucial part of this complex training component, and post-performance routines also play a significant role. In this article, we will explore how pre-performance routines can provide a competitive advantage.
Understanding Pre-Performance Routines
You may have been introduced to pre-performance routine techniques by your sports coach or fellow athletes. You might have even observed it in action during sports broadcasts, where athletes exhibit specific behaviors before major tournaments. Iconic athletes like Tiger Woods and Mo Farah utilize pre-performance routines to great effect.
Pre-performance routines can be defined as "a sequence of task-relevant thoughts and actions in which an athlete engages systematically before performing a specific sport skill" (Moran, 1996). It's important to note that pre-performance routines are distinct from superstitions or compulsive behaviors. Superstitions, such as wearing a certain color or performing a ritual for good luck, lack proven purpose and control the athlete rather than aiding their control.
On the other hand, pre-performance routines involve effective techniques that have been proven to enhance performance.
The Benefits of Pre-Performance Routines
According to experts in the field (Adams 1967 et al), pre-performance routines offer three main benefits in sports:
Creating an optimal mindset for achieving desired outcomes: Consistent routines, practiced before and after training, help athletes get into the right frame of mind and provide comfort and reassurance. This is particularly valuable before significant events or competitions.
Assisting neuromuscular pathways: Pre-performance routines stimulate the pathways necessary for honing specific skills. Athletes often mentally rehearse a shot or motion before executing it, which contributes to mental preparation and task-specific cues.
Supporting schema development or maintenance: Schema refers to the learned behaviors that help us make sense of the world around us. Reflection, particularly during post-preparation, plays a role in this process.
Implementing Pre-Performance Routines
To understand how a pre-performance routine can help you, start by writing down your requirements and desired outcomes on paper. Then, assess how your current routine aligns with these objectives. If you don't have a routine in place, consider creating one that supports your goals. Collaborate with your coach to refine and identify the most effective routine for you. It's essential to maintain focus and avoid significant deviations from the intended objectives, while allowing for potential adjustments as you evolve as an athlete.
Key Elements of Pre-Performance Routines
Pre-performance routines consist of two key elements: behavior and thoughts. When these elements are integrated into an athlete's training program, they become powerful tools. Let's delve deeper into each element:
Guided breathing: Practices like deep breathing and guided breathing help relax the muscles, bring a sense of calm to the mind, and control anxiety levels, particularly before high-pressure moments.
Warm-up routines: Whether it involves specific stretches or warm-up exercises, these routines help connect the body and mind, promoting overall well-being.
Rehearsal: Use rehearsal to practice the desired performance, focusing on task-relevant cues. This mental preparation technique is commonly observed in sports like golf, baseball, cricket, and football, among others.
Goal-setting: Incorporating goal-setting into pre-performance routines has been shown to improve performance. Set both short-term and long-term goals, with feedback playing a crucial role in this process.
Imagery: Mental imagery, visualizing and mentally rehearsing performance using all senses, helps set the stage for success. It is explored in more detail in other chapters.
Relaxation: Mental fatigue can impact athletes even before they step onto the field. Relaxation techniques, such as meditation, guided breathing, and ensuring sufficient sleep, conserve energy and calibrate the body and mind.
Self-talk: Maintaining a positive mindset is key to mental preparation. A pre-performance routine that includes positive self-talk helps block out external distractions and focus the mind. Replacing negative messages with positive affirmations is an essential aspect of self-talk. Reflecting on past successes serves as a reminder of future accomplishments.
Implementing a Routine
A pre-performance routine should be tailored to the individual. What works for one person may not work for another. Partner with your sports coach to develop an effective routine that suits your needs. Test and refine the routine to ensure its effectiveness. Integration into your training program is crucial. The routine should cover all aspects, from warm-up processes to dealing with others before a game, kit preparation, nutrition, sleep, and other relevant elements. This comprehensive approach helps focus your mind before an event and offers comfort and familiarity, particularly if you experience anxiety.
Importance of Post-Performance Routines
Post-performance routines should not be overlooked.Research suggests that every performance should be followed by an equivalent post-performance routine. Just as warming up before an event and cooling down afterward are essential for the body, our minds also require similar attention.
Having routines in sport provides numerous benefits, ranging from building self-confidence to managing anxiety, and from mental and physical preparation to emotional management after events. It comes as no surprise that most professional athletes incorporate pre and post-performance routines into their daily training and competitive techniques.
Ensure that your routine is personalized and effective for your specific needs. Consistency is key, so discipline yourself to use it regularly. Make it automatic by performing your routine before every race or competition. Additionally, consider a post-performance routine that complements your overall mental preparation and strategy. By building a personal and effective routine with dedication and time, you can gain a competitive edge with the help of certain techniques.
In conclusion, here are a few takeaway tips for success:
Create a pre-performance routine that helps you perform to your potential.
Tailor the routine to your specific needs.
Maintain consistency and discipline in using the routine regularly.
Incorporate the routine into your training program.
Consider implementing a post-performance routine for comprehensive mental preparation and reflection.