Sunday, 20 November 2005

Peak Performance

Posted by speedygeoff on Sunday, November 20, 2005 with No comments
The Peak Peformance website "pponline" is one of the excellent internet resource runners have at their fingertips. They have excellent articles on all manner of things, and you can subscribe to get additional resources emailed to you.
Here is a small excerpt from an article on winners and losers, found at http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/0235.htm

"Increasing aggression... Man is a tribal animal. He is used to hierarchies or 'pecking orders'. Runners, like hens, tend to settle into accepted places within a group. If you are used to being in front and winning races, you will not be happy with anything else. If you have always been at the tail-end of a bunch of good runners, you may be improving physically but you will not have experienced the feeling of being in front, dominating the race. It is a good thing to run in fast races against better people to try to extend your limits, but it is also good to run in minor races which you can win, to get that winning feeling. It has been shown that testosterone levels rise after winning a race, so the 'winning streak' may become easier to maintain as it gets longer, and I would certainly advise a carefully chosen race programme before a championship event

....and decreasing anxiety Nobody is free from big race nerves, but some people are able to master them, while others are paralysed. Part of this is due to experience. The sheer size and novelty of a big Games meeting can flood the personality with a mixture of new impressions and strange emotions so that it is difficult to concentrate on the job in hand, but these emotions diminish with experience. Being in Rome, being in the Olympic stadium, finding yourself as British Number One, may in time become routine situations. The central problem, though, remains: the fear of putting yourself under maximum pressure or, rather, the fear of failing when under maximum pressure.

No one performs well unless they are nervous. It is the high state of arousal brought on by the big occasion which produces the great performance, but we are all familiar with the anxiety-arousal curve, where over-anxiety depresses performance. David Hemery, the former Olympic gold medalist and a master of the mental game, has a technique for dealing with this. He says: 'What is the worst thing that you can imagine? How likely is that to happen?' and then asks, 'What would happen then?' and 'What would you feel about it?'

When put like this, athletes realise that even a championship race is just another race, not the end of the world nor the end of their career. If you lead the athlete through his past career, it is usually one of success, and reasons can be found for the failures. He will realise that 'cracking up' is very unlikely, and that there is always another race. People remember the races you win, not the ones you lost. Seb Coe is remembered as the man who won two Olympic titles at 1500m but how many, apart from Steve Cram, remember that he did not take part in the 1983 Championships?

The best ways of coping with this pre-race worry are:
1. Follow a routine which has been used before in the last few days. One should not make a fetish of needing to have exactly the same meals or wearing the same pair of socks, but a pattern of training, eating and sleeping which you know will get you on to the starting line fresh and rested.

2. In the last few hours, when you are tempted to worry about what other people are doing, think about the good training you have done, think about your best races, and visualise the race itself. Think through different scenarios and picture yourself winning in each one.

3. In the race itself, focus on your own performance, monitoring your tiredness and trying to run as efficiently as possible, moving into the right position as the pace changes. Try to carry out your race plans, however bad you feel, because the chances are the others are feeling just as bad. Whatever you do, you must come out of the race feeling that you have put everything into it. That way you will have no regrets.

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