As an athlete, you would have experienced how negative self-talk and emotions can jeopardise your focus and performance. While it is difficult to break away from these distractions entirely, there are practices that can help you manage them. One of these practices is to make use of routines to create order in your environment. This will help you to think and feelin ways that will help you perform optimally.
Before we get into focus routines, let’s first define what focus is.
Focus is what you’re thinking about (attentional dimension) and feeling (emotional dimension) now, at the moment.
Most athletes have experienced how process goals and simple cues can help them focus under competitive pressure. Experienced coaches would understand the importance of communicating simple and effective cues to facilitate learning.
Since performance cues are critical to optimising learning and performance, let’s look at how we should decide on what cues to focus on, in what way are some cues more effective than others, and what the scientific literature has to say about this!
To improve performance, you are likely to apply some sort of challenge to “stress” yourself physically and psychologically, followed by a period of recovery and rest.
Too much stress without enough rest and you get injured, sick, and burnout. Meanwhile, training that is too easy and too much rest leads to complacency, boredom, and stagnation.
Authors of Peak Performance – Brad Strudel and Steve Magness found one thing in common with the most successful and enduring performers in sport and other domains: they oscillate between periods of stress and rest.
Stress + Recovery = Growth.
This is a simple, but not necessarily easy equation to follow. For a start, many athletes are very intentional when planning for training but regard recovery (especially psychological recovery) as a good to have, rather than a priority. This is especially so when they are under pressure to perform.
As ironic as it sounds, recovery happens when we stop paying attention to our goals. Taking a break is not intuitive especially when we are under pressure but that’s when we MUST step away (and step back in thereafter).
So, what can we do to help ourselves recover both physically and psychologically?