Hollywood was wrong and still is. You don’t have to get hyped up in order to crush it. The same goes for the inverse. Unfortunately, that’s what is being sold (by a bunch of posers – I mean actors - nonetheless). What you need to do is find what works best for you. Prior to performing, athletes at the highest levels in their biggest performances know what they need to do operate to rev up and others need to mellow out. Some prefer to be even keeled.
Us versus them is appealing, it’s what elevates us to greater heights, but it’s critical to interested in you versus you.
Regarding that, I’d rather focus on solutions.
Solutions are not necessarily answers; they might even be better questions. The usefulness of sport psychology, the definition of a solution is not determined by a win or a loss, but, instead, applicability & utility. Solutions emerge from trial-and-error (you know, actually trying and erroring). Solutions turn thinking into doing, .
The solutions I’m describing are not a one-off deal or one-size-fits-all package. Thought is unique to the individual (let’s hope that’s the case, unless you’re a lamb). On average, a human has 60,000 – 80,000 of them in a day. Any number of those thoughts can (and often will) influence one’s emotions and physiological state. Considering any one thought can emerge at any given time, it would sense to find ways in which thought can be steered and harnessed so that it might be advantageous.
This is the crosshairs of the you-versus-you duel. What are you telling yourself? Positive, negative… That doesn’t matter; is it constructive? Is your performance benefitting from that in any way? How are you measuring whether or not things are working?
This is why pre-performance routines are critical. If done effectively, routines can connect mind with body and then that is conveyed through physiology.
I’ve learned the value of routines through racing. Mine are never the same because I’m always in a different environment, but I know the exact vibe that I want to set when I wake up: mellow and, more recently, grateful.
Why? Mellow because when the stoke burns, it burns intensely hot and fast; grateful because I want to 100% appreciate arriving at this moment without injury. This became a whole lot more meaningful to me after have not raced for the past 15 months.
My routine before a race starts at the expo. I don’t hang around too long because there’s so much nervous chatter, which is basically a whole bunch of people freaking out about the course or distance. I always wonder why they signed up in the first place? I don’t want any part of it because I don’t find it to be beneficial. Thus, I get back to my room after a meal and lay low. I wait.
I am a patient boy
I wait, I wait, I wait, I wait
My time is like water down a drain
Everybody's moving, moving, moving, moving
Please don't leave me to remain
I'm in the waiting room, I don't want the news
I cannot use it
I don't want the news
I won't live by it
Sitting outside of town
Everybody's always down
Tell me why?
“Waiting Room” by Fugazi
During those last moments leading up to a performance, there’s literally nothing one can physically do that will drastically improve that upcoming performance; however, mentally, there are myriad ways in which it can be ruined. This is why a brief checking-in can do wonders.
Those “butterflies” can be nerves or excitement or something similar. Regardless, they are not bad. Butterflies mean you’re physically alive and, mentally and emotionally, indicate that the upcoming performance actually means something to you.
The purpose of a pre-performance routine is to a hold checking-in with yourself before the lights are on. The objective is to align the butterflies and set them in motion.
Before you’re out in the arena, remember to check-in while you’re in the waiting room. What is it you need to do and feel before you’re about to perform? Just like the physical, you will evolve and pre-performance routines will likely go through iterations and a whole lot of refining.
a. How do you want to feel? (think back to past best performances)
b. How much time / energy will you be allotted? Keep in mind that both are finite resources
2. Have a Couple different options
3. Make it meaningful to you & you alone
a. Person - Everybody is different . What works for you might not work for somebody else.
b. Task - Different tasks require different routines. Adjust accordingly.
4. Be Flexible
Remember to have a couple different options, instead of a rigid routine because things rarely go as planned. This is true, especially in sport, as entering into new environments is a constant (a little mental flexibility can go a long way).
Don’t leave your best performance up to chance, serendipity, or luck.
You actually have more of a say in things than you might think and a pre-performance routine is one variable that can influence many others. It’s also one that’s within your control. Coaches and athletes place a ton of value on the physiological elements that contribute to warming-up – stretching, physical movement, sweating… - and it’s likely that’s because they’re easy to identify. These are important; remember to schedule some time to mentally check-in because only you can found out how valuable that time might become.