Want to be pumped up and ready for your next race? Try these mind tricks to put you in the zone…
When people get psyched for performance, they are mentally gearing up and getting ‘into the zone’ where everything just flows easily and effortlessly. You too can get into the zone by following the strategies outlined here.
What’s ‘The Zone’?
Getting into ‘the zone’ is a mindset of performance, regardless of the arena. This means an athlete’s calm, clear and focused. They are energised, optimistic and confident. While performing they focus on what they are doing and everything just clicks into place. Their actions are easy and effortless, and things just flow.
Focusing on the positives is a step towards helping yourself get into the zone. Doing visualisation exercises and having routines also helps you get into the zone because it helps your body to go on auto-pilot. When you don’t have to think about what to do or how to do it (because you have trained hours), you get into the zone more easily.
Focus On The Positives
Most athletes want to get psyched up and in the zone for their event, yet some have difficulty because they get consumed by race nerves and are distracted by negative thoughts such as ‘I’m not ready for this’, ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I always race badly in this weather’. Before any big event, your body reacts as if in a ‘fight or flight’ response; which is an automatic reaction to a demand that is about to be placed on it. When you interpret this as a positive thing you generally experience a sense of excitement and anticipation. It can help you focus, fire you up and fuel your performance.
This positive reaction helps you get psyched up and in the zone. When you interpret this as a negative thing, you may sense a sinking feeling in your stomach, it will set your mind and heart racing, palms sweating and muscles tightening. It heightens any doubts and fears and hinders your performance. If you can learn to interpret those ‘races nerves’ as something exciting, you can enhance your performance.
One strategy that helps you to get in the zone is mental rehearsal, also called visualisation. Much like an actor rehearses their part for a play, you can rehearse your part for your play – your triathlon event! Some people say they have difficulty visualising. Yet, if they were asked how many doors they had at home, they would mentally count them up and give an answer. They have just visualised!
Visualise your event from start to finish. See what you’ll see, hear what you’ll hear and feel what you’ll feel. Make the picture big and bright, the sounds loud and pleasing, the feelings intense. By practising this visualisation before your event, your mind and body will more easily get into the zone when you’re there. This visualisation process can also include what you do in your pre-event routines.
A pre-event routine consists of a series of actions you do and things you think about, to prepare for when the event starts. It’s like a checklist of all the things to do and by when. Let’s take, for example, doing a triathlon. Your pre-event routine might start two hours before your start time, whereby you rack all your equipment and check out the swim, bike and run course.
Afterwards, you might do a warm-up, with some stretching and some mental rehearsal. Thirty minutes before your start time you get your wetsuit on and walk to the start area. While you’re waiting, mentally rehearse again; see yourself in the swim, the bike and the run being strong, powerful and confident. Enjoy that feeling as you cross the finish line with your arms in the air.
When you execute the routine you don’t have to think ‘what do I need to do to get ready?’ because you have practised it many times and your actions become automatic, so you’ll get into the zone more easily.
On A Final Note
Getting psyched for performance is about getting mentally ready. Managing race nerves and focusing on the positives will also help fuel your performance. By doing mental rehearsal exercises, you’ll do things automatically, as if you were on auto-pilot when you get to the event. Having a pre-event routine also helps you get into the mindset of performance because the routine is familiar and you don’t have to think about it. Practise letting your body go on auto-pilot through mental rehearsal and pre-event routines for your best ever performance.