How to think like a winner

June 14, 2012

Whether you are an Olympian or a weekend warrior, the mental side of performance boils down to confidence, composure and focus, according to Chris Carr, an Indianapolis sports psychologist who has worked with many Olympians and professional athletes over the past two decades. A few of his strategies for performing your best:

1
Set goals wisely

Choose a reachable goal, then plan out what has to happen each day for you to achieve it. (Instead of “I have to practice more,” plan what and how much you will practice Monday, then Tuesday, etc.) If you follow a plan, you’ll be more confident in your training.

2
Visualize your performance

If your goal is a 25-minute 5K, imagine yourself relaxing before the gun despite all the potential distractions, running comfortably, hanging tough and kicking to a fabulous, 24:59 finish. Watch this mini-movie in your head over and over, day after day, so that it becomes ingrained. Success will seem more possible.

3
Create a pre-event mental routine

Ask yourself what you need to do before you perform your best. A golfer might think, “Before I walk to first tee, I will get out early and hit five balls with six different clubs. I will be loose, warmed up, and have a good feel for my swing.” Do it every time you practice. An established routine will become partially subconscious and will help you focus without wasting energy.

4
Learn how to manage butterflies

Practice relaxing, whether by meditating, deep breathing, listening to low-key music or some other method. Surges of adrenaline before events can trigger anxiety, which sets off all kinds of chaos in the central nervous system. The key is to prepare for the surge and channel that excitement into greater focus.

5
Talk to yourself

Call it a mantra or a cue. Basically, you want to come up with a couple of words or a phrase that you will conjure up during your performance. “Smooth, fluid” might be a golfer’s mantra, or “see the target” might be a pitcher’s. It can be anything that cuts through the distractions and focuses your mind.

Source: Chris Carr of St. Vincent Sports Performance Center in Indianapolis

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