Mental preparation can be one of the most overlooked aspects in the early phases of your athletic career.
My name is Danny Sidbury, I am a professional T54 wheelchair athlete and a brand athlete for KYMIRA Sport.
In this segment I'll be sharing my own personal tips and experiences that help me mentally prepare for a race.
Before we begin, I have broken it down into 6 stages of a competition, and which mental preparation techniques are most useful in each stage.
Like any experienced athlete will tell you, a 100m race does not begin when the gun goes off, it can begin anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks (or more) prior the gun going off. Everything you do in the build up for a race is crucial to your mental preparation. A mental preparation technique that is overlooked and yet very effective during the lead-up period is peace of mind. In other words, knowing that you've done everything in your power to be at your best come race day. Knowing that I have been addressing my weaknesses, sticking to my diet and training program, eliminates nerves and boosts confidence on race day.
To sum up, be well prepared.
It is at this time when nerves creep in.
I like to double check the journey I need to make the following day, make sure I know the timetable of the event(s), have all my clothes and gear laid out the night before. I also tend to have a healthy and generous dinner and make sure I'm well hydrated prior to going to bed.
You may be starting to sense the theme of 'being well prepared'
One thing that I do the night before when it comes to mental preparation, is I lie in bed with my eyes closed and use visualisation techniques of tomorrows race. What this means, is that I visualise myself executing the perfect race. Sometimes I fall asleep doing this and end up dreaming about the race.
I am one of those athletes who has to have breakfast in order to start the day properly. I have breakfast at least 1 hour before the race, ideally 2 to 3 hours before the race.
I am also one of those athletes that likes to get to competition venues early. I don't like being rushed or stressed trying to meet deadlines. So I register, collect my timing chips and race numbers and do my warm up routine.
The atmosphere of the people around you can have a huge impact on your performance on race day (for better or for worse)
I personally prefer a laid back, relaxed, positive vibe, with as little pressure as possible. I understand that some people thrive off the pressure, there's no wrong answer, you need to find what works for you and what's the ideal atmosphere for you to perform at your best.
So, you've signed in, you've warmed up and now you've been called into the call room along with the other athletes you will be competing against.
It is at this stage where your mental preparation needs to be on point. You need to acknowledge that at this stage there's not much more you can do, all that there is left to do is to remain calm and focused. Remaining calm and focus is easier said than done, as other athletes may try to distract you or intimidate you, in other words, get in your head.
In order to combat this, you can either engage in the banter and try and get into their head space or simply ignore and stay in the moment.
To 'stay in the moment/zone' there are some interesting mental preparation techniques that you can use:
One of which is rubbing your index finger against your thumb attempting to feel your fingerprints. I know it sounds bizarre, however the objective of this exercise is to avoid being distracted by your competitors and all the chaos that can become very overwhelming and put you off, by giving your mind a very simple and achievable exercise that will hopefully keep you calm and focused.
Another similar technique is to have an elastic band on your wrist, pull it and let go every time you become distracted. It keeps your mind focused on the pinching sensation on your wrist as a pose to your competitors or other distractions.
The Start Line
So you've survived the call room and now you are just moments away from what you've been training for. Even at this stage there are some mental preparation techniques that you can use to boost your confidence. One that I occasionally use is that you can either wink or smile (or both) to yourself, I find that it relaxes me and helps dilute the pressure.
All there is left to do, is go out and have fun. Athletes tend to perform better when they're enjoying themselves and doing what they love. Keeping a positive mindset, even when things are not going to plan, will help you achieve your goals in the long run. So even, if your race or event didn't go well, it's important to find the silver lining and to focus on what went well.
About the Author
Danny Sidbury is a professional T54 wheelchair athlete and a KYMIRA Sport brand athlete 2019.
Danny is pictured above wearing the Pr02 Cycle kit now available with long tights or shorts.
If you would like to hear more about getting your head in the zone for a race , last week's blog provides details on mindset and offers further techniques to help you train your brain.
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