As some of you may know, here in Brighton, we are having our second full Marathon soon. I have subsequently been seeing a few clients to help improve their physical and mental sports performance and deal with pre race anxiety, so they can do their best on the day.
One of the big concerns people have is worrying how they will do on the day. I imagine almost every performer, no matter whether they are at the highest level in their field or simply an enthusiast, will have days that go well and some where they feel could have gone better.
The first focus then is to know what makes us perform better on those good days, as all too often we think about what went wrong. As those of you who do this will know it is very easy to bring back the frustrations and anxiety associated with a bad performance. But if we can bring back those negative associations then surely we can bring back the positive ones too.
This is where the power of our senses can be so helpful. By vividly remembering what it was like when you performed well, and slowing it right down in your mind, you can really enjoy bringing the experience back to life. By building it up and reconnecting your senses to the experience you are then allowing the mind to re-learn, enhancing the knowledge and subsequent benefits of this positive, successful time in your life.
Here is a technique that will help you prepare for your big day:
Pick a specific memory of when you were running or performing particularly well. By closing your eyes you can focus on what you looked like, how you were feeling, how your body was moving and also the sounds and smells you might have had. Once you have really got the hang of replaying this past performance in your mind, trying alternating between all your senses.
Now increase the intensity of the memory by making the image bigger and brighter and closer to you. Focus on where the good feeling comes from in your body and make it even more powerful, allowing it to spread outwards, maybe with a colour associated with it. Also try focusing on the senses you find harder to access as this will help develop those senses too. If you are musical think of a song or tune that you can associate with the memory and just slot it in there at the appropriate point.
As you are going over this ask yourself what you can learn about this experience that will help you in the future? What particular movement, feeling, or sound perhaps has a positive association with that performance? Now go back over the experience and slow it all down. You will probably find a particular element of this memory as key to what makes the experience so positive for you. By doing all of this you ideally want to find that you finish with a short, snappy and really powerful movie you have formed in your mind, with a clear beginning and end.
Finally for the icing on the cake;
Using the above experience and with it slowed right down, in your mind see an image of yourself at the peak of your performance. Notice what it is about the image that makes it apparent you are at the peak of your performance. Your body language, your facial expression perhaps. Now imagine you can freeze the image like on a DVD and do just that. Now step inside the image, then imagine someone has pressed the slow play button, and enjoy being in the moment of that experience. Focus completely on the feeling in your body and any movements, making it even more intense. Enjoy that for a few moments then repeat by stepping outside the image, seeing yourself and then stepping back inside, however this time you want to anchor it by pressing your thumb and forefinger together hard. Let go and step out and in again at least once more again using the anchor.
The aim of this is to make this past memory much more powerful and vivid so that you create a really positive template to re-access in the future, when standing on the start line for instance. This technique is ideally done with someone guiding you, however even by simply re-accessing a positive experience, your mind will be developing a positive association for any future scenario.
By Lawrence Michaels