- Dr. Kaustubh Radkar
The RadStrong approach to Sports psychology and mental conditioning.
What is sports psychology? In athletic performance athletes go through physical training that sports scientists apply knowledge from fields such as kinesiology, biomechanics, physiology, but there is a huge other aspect that can be the difference between a good race or a bad one. The psychology or mental aspect of training and how it affects participation or performance is called sports psychology. Sports psychology is important as it teaches mental skills for enhanced performance during training that result in peak performance during competition/ racing.
Okay, so how is it applied? Let us talk about three common techniques used by athletes all around the globe to enhance their performance.
Mantra: One of the most common used techniques is having a mantra or key phrase that helps you get through the hump. Mine is “mind over matter,” it’s inscribed in several places that I see routinely during the day, this helps me not just in athletic but also my professional life. This becomes handy, for eg: during a speed workout on the 3rd or 8th or 13th repeat as you body starts getting fatigued, remind yourself it’s in the brain, “if you believe it, you can do it.”
Imagery or Visualization: This one is very crucial, for any athlete, before workout or at night is possible take a few minutes and go through your upcoming workout, race in your head. Start from when you get up, to start of the run/ swim, the middle portion when you start feeling tired or feel great, and the final push as you come to the finish line. Go through your nutrition, how you will sip on water every few mins, or eat a gel or banana or drink your electrolytes during the run. Go through the rough patches too, the swim where its crowded and someone kicks you, the cycle where either your chain falls down or you get a puncture, how you will handle both good and bad calmly so that on race day it feels routine.
Positive Self talk: How you talk to yourself during the workout, event can be the difference between a good one or bad. Remember it’s important to keep things positive at all times, that will give you the right energy to push you start talking negative your brain will send cues to the muscles, tissues that it’s time to let go. For eg: during races, especially long ones, if I feel a cramp coming in one body part I will just focus on my technique and tell myself I am have such a good day. During Ultraman when I had a huge calf cramp at about 70 kms, I just kept telling myself one step after another, that’s all, no need to worry about the cramp, it will go away soon.
All of these sound very easy, but it isn’t a magic wand or a light switch that comes on during the event. It has to be practiced day in and day out and it starts the night before. Last Saturday night I had visualized the climbs on university, as I wanted a real good effort I had practiced exactly what I would say to myself as the legs got tired. The result was 4:25/4:27 for those two kms.
Do you have to use all of these? The answers is yes and no, find what works for you, these are all interconnected if you see. Self talk should happen at all times, even if you aren’t saying it out loud, inside your brain you are keeping things calm and composed. Mental imagery, visualization is all about practice, you will have to make time to make this happen, once it becomes routine its 2 mins of your life, trust me it will pay huge dividends. Last but not least you’re mantra, that’s what defines you; we all have one it’s just time to find your one. Practice these during each workout and you will see results on race day, because practice doest just make perfect; practice makes permanent.