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Athletics: The Right Field of Mind
2 February 2014
story by Olivia Vivian, WAIS Gymnast, Olympian
Olivia and the Athletics WA squad

When you step up to compete you may have additional factors such as the crowd, pressure to win, opponents, different equipment and consequences that you aren’t usually accustomed to in training environments. But it’s when you give thought towards these uncontrollable components you are instantly giving less attention to the visual and body cues that will help you perform to your best.


For the most part, most athletes do the same tricks and techniques in competition that they do so in training. Yet sometimes we perform completely different to the way we had practiced it a thousand times before in training. We can thank the increased levels of stress and anxiety we experience on meet days for this.


In the Athletics Foundation Core workshop on 2nd February, one of the topics we discussed was an increase of stress associated in competition. When you think about it, our bodies aren’t doing anything different to what we do in training, but the added pressures of competition can increase stress to the point of distraction.


Stress levels are estimated to triple on meet days and in pressure situations; and this is why it can be very useful for an athlete to train in different scenarios.


We don’t all have the resources to train under competition environments all the time so this is where we can get creative. Try to put yourself in situations in training where it will add a little bit of pressure to your repetitions. Ask a coach or teammate to watch your next turn and use a consequence or reward as a bargaining chip to add extra pressure. This is a simple way for you to get use to training under stress.


If you have a picture of the arena you will compete in, try to do some mental imagery of that place when you train. Vision that competition arena and pretend you are in that same environment when you train. This way you won’t be so similar to a fish out of water when the competition rolls around.


These are just a couple of ideas on how you can learn to train under pressure. On an elite stage, there isn’t much difference between physical abilities. It’s usually the athlete that is mentally stronger and can compete under pressure that will win the champion title.

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