15 Steps to Mental Strength in Sports
Step 12 – Keeping Calm The Night Before a Big Match
One of the most common mistake athletes makes happens long before the event.
It happens the night before a big event when they are lying in bed trying to fall asleep, bit their mind is racing 100 mph thinking about all the things that could happen during the event. Then they think about how they’re not falling asleep and this just adds fuel to the fire.
Then when you get ready for the competition you’re exhausted and play well below peak performance.
And in actuality, it’s not the lack of sleep that will do you in, it’s when you worry you’re muscles get tense, your breathing becomes shallow and you’re basically in the ‘flight or fight’ syndrome. This uses up all your energy so that you have none left to perform with.
Even if just laid there relaxed for most of the night, you’d still do better than having tense muscles for 6+ hours.
What you need for those times is a relaxation strategy to fall asleep.
Progressive muscle relaxation this keep your muscles loose and keep your mind occupied.
Once you have developed this skill you’ll be able to quickly and effectively relax anywhere.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation Induction
You can either close your eye or use a soft focus when you perform this process.
The basic technique here is to tense and then relax each muscle group progressing from the head to the feet, while allowing your mind to drift away. It is also known as the Jacobsen Technique, named for the German doctor who developed it in the 1930′s.
Advantages: A relaxation induction is simple and almost full-proof.
Disadvantages: This will work with everyone, and it can take a very long time to induce relaxation, up to twenty minutes with some people.
Uses: It is simple to do and easy to learn. Most people go into deep relaxation in after a few minutes. It is good practice for someone learning how to relax.
Read the following process a few times so you get the basic understanding and then give a go yourself. Of you read and record this process and make your own MP3 to listen to a night.
By tightening a muscle and then releasing, you can feel the difference between tense and relaxed. Actively engaging in progressive muscle relaxation exercises effectively loosens and relaxes the muscles.
Make sure not to do any movements that cause pain. If any of these exercises causes discomfort, ease up or stop to ensure that you do not cause muscle cramping or injury.
Sometimes if you are very tense already, actively tensing your muscles with progressive muscle relaxation exercise will not be helpful. If this is the case, you may want to try passive progressive muscle relaxation exercises instead.
Start reading the guided progressive muscle relaxation exercise script here:
Begin by finding a comfortable position sitting, standing, or lying down. You can change positions any time during the progressive muscle relaxation exercises to make yourself more comfortable as needed.
The first progressive muscle relaxation exercise is breathing. Breathe in forcefully and deeply, and hold this breath. Hold it…hold it… and now release. Let all the air go out slowly, and release all the tension.
Take another deep breath in. Hold it…. and then exhale slowly, allowing the tension to leave your body with the air.
Now breath even more slowly and gently… breathe in….hold….out….
Continue to breathe slowly and gently. Allow your breathing to relax you.
The next progressive muscle relaxation exercise focuses on relaxing the muscles of your body.
Start with the large muscles of your legs. Tighten all the muscles of your legs. Tense the muscles further. Hold onto this tension. Feel how tight and tensed the muscles in your legs are right now. Squeeze the muscles harder, tighter… Continue to hold this tension. Feel the muscles wanting to give up this tension.
Hold it for a few moments more…. and now relax. Let all the tension go. Feel the muscles in your legs going limp, loose, and relaxed. Notice how relaxed the muscles feel now. Feel the difference between tension and relaxation.
Enjoy the pleasant feeling of relaxation in your legs.
Now focus on the muscles in your arms. Tighten your shoulders, upper arms, lower arms, and hands. Squeeze your hands into tight fists. Tense the muscles in your arms and hands as tightly as you can. Squeeze harder…. harder….. hold the tension in your arms, shoulders, and hands. Feel the tension in these muscles.
Hold it for a few moments more…. and now release. Let the muscles of your shoulders, arms, and hands relax and go limp. Feel the relaxation as your shoulders lower into a comfortable position and your hands relax at your sides.
Allow the muscles in your arms to relax completely.
Focus again on your breathing. Slow, even, regular breaths. Breathe in relaxation…. and breathe out tension….. in relaxation….and out tension…. Continue to breathe slowly and rhythmically.
Now focus on the muscles of your buttocks. Tighten these muscles as much as you can. Hold this tension….. and then release. Relax your muscles.
Tighten the muscles of your back now. Feel your back tightening, pulling your shoulders back and tensing the muscles along your spine. Arch your back slightly as you tighten these muscles. Hold…. and relax. Let all the tension go. Feel your back comfortably relaxing into a good and healthy posture.
Turn your attention now to the muscles of your chest and stomach. Tighten and tense these muscles. Tighten them further…hold this tension…. and release. Relax the muscles of your trunk.
Finally, tighten the muscles of your face. Scrunch your eyes shut tightly, wrinkle your nose, and tighten your cheeks and chin. Hold this tension in your face…. and relax. Release all the tension. Feel how relaxed your face is.
Notice all of the muscles in your body…. notice how relaxed your muscles fee l. Allow any last bits of tension to drain away. Enjoy the relaxation you are experiencing. Notice your calm breathing…. your relaxed muscles…. Enjoy the relaxation for a few moments….
When you are ready to return to your usual level of alertness and awareness, slowly begin to re-awaken your body. Wiggle your toes and fingers. Swing your arms gently. Shrug your shoulders. Stretch if you like.
You may now end this progressive muscle relaxation exercise feeling calm and refreshed.
In the bonuses that come with “Mental Strength Training for Athletes” there are a few relaxation audio’s already recorded for you. If you don’t want to record your own this is a great alternative.
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