Psych - by Judd Biasiotto

When I was actively competing, I went to great pains to procure as much information as possible about strength training and powerlifting. I read practically everything I could get my hands on...books about training routines, ergogenic aids, nutrition, biomechanics, etc. I searched the literature for experiments that dealt with any of these subject areas. I also called or visited prominent coaches and athletes throughout the country. Through it all, I obtained a prolific amount of information that greatly enhanced my training and competitive performance. If you want to reach an optimum level of performance, you will need to do the same thing. The fact that few athletes and coaches engage in intellectual training gives you even a greater edge by doing so. Even a small edge can mean the difference between being good and being great. Without question, the more you know, the better you are likely to be.

Tthere has been considerable research conducted which indicates that the number one variable that correlates with athletic success is self-confidence. Generally speaking, the more confident the athlete, the more successful he is in his sport.

Cognitive Strategies

Since your brain is a computer and it is programmed by words, thoughts, and actions, it is imperative that every word, thought, and action be a concise, positive affirmation.

Positive thinkers do not deny that negative things happen or that failure exists. They simply refuse to dwell on such events. Rather, they look for the positive element in each situation and build upon it. Concisely, positive thinking is a form of thought, which habitually siphons the positive element in each situation and builds upon it.

Belief is ineffective without action. All of the positive thinking in the world won't make you great, but positive thinking, sound goals, and hard work will.

Psychic Driving (Positive Self-Talk)

The method consists of making statements or affirmations that reflect positive attitudes or thoughts about yourself. Obviously, the more frequently you bombard your brain with positive affirmation, the more positive you'll become. You can use psychic driving every day. When you wake up each morning, tell yourself that you feel strong, powerful, and happy. Also, tell yourself that you can do anything. Then, constantly reinforce these concepts throughout the day, always suggesting that you are great and that there is nothing you cannot do. And guess what? Eventually you will believe it! In order to get the most out of psychic driving, there are a few suggestions you might want to follow. Research has revealed that the most effective affirmations are ones that are both believable and vivid. Experimental studies have also found that spontaneous suggestions, those that capture the true feelings of a successful experience, are the best to utilize. Consequently, power words such as "I feel strong and powerful. I feel confident and self-assured" are good phrases to use right before you have to perform in a pressure situation. Words like "easy," "relax," and "calm" are important when trying to maintain your composure.

Visualization Training

Not only will mental imagery condition our mind, but it will also condition our body. By visualizing your performance, you are actually doing two things that will make the real "lift" easier. First, since the brain cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagery, you are programming your brain to believe that you have actually made the "lift," thereby increasing your self-confidence. Second, you are also programming your body because as your brain conceives of making the "lift," there is a cortical spill over (brain messages) which facilitates the neurons in the body to perform the idea that is being conceived.

  1. Induce Deep Muscle Relaxation

  2. Visualize as Vividly as Possible

  3. Mental Rehearsal

  4. Use Internal Imagery

  5. Be Realistic About What You Visualize

  6. Never Use Imagery That Is Negative

Anxiety and Its Effect on Performance

"What is the difference between stress and anxiety?" Simply put, stress deals primarily with a physiological response where anxiety deals with both a mental and a physical response.

Precompetitive Anxiety... The Inverted-V

Generally, as cognitive state anxiety increases, athletic performance decreases. Conversely, the relationship between somatic state anxiety (increased heart rate, muscle tension, jittery, etc.) and performance is quadratic in nature and takes the form of the inverted-U. As somatic state anxiety increases, performance also increases up to an optimal level, and then decreases as somatic state anxiety continues to increase. In brief, the relationship between somatic state anxiety and athletic performance takes the form of the inverted-U, while the relationship between cognitive state anxiety and performance is linear and negative.

Relaxation Strategies

  • Deep muscle relaxation

  • Meditation

  • Biofeedback (HRV)

Intervention Strategies

Systematic Desensitization

Research has consistently revealed that repeated exposure to anxiety-provoking situations will gradually evoke significantly lesser anxiety and will eventually completely eliminate the response. In other words, by repeatedly exposing an individual to anxiety-provoking stimuli, eventually the stimuli will lose their capacity to evoke anxiety. As mentioned, imagery-based flooding can be used rather than engaging in the actual situation. As you probably have guessed, the subject would first induce deep muscle relaxation and visualize the anxiety-provoking scenario for an extended period of time (30 minutes or more). As the treatment progresses and the individual has successfully associated relaxation with the anxiety provoking scenario, eventually he or she will be able to imagine the situation without experiencing anxiety. The stimulus that previously elicited the anxiety response will no longer do so. Moreover, the changes in the individual's anxiety response are not restricted to images or thoughts about the situation, but eventually extend to the actual situation.

Motivational Strategies

Without purpose we are limited. Consequently, it is in man's best interest not to be dissatisfied but to always be unsatisfied. Once you are satisfied, you have reached a cumulative point in life, inertia will breed, and the next thing you know you will be sliding backwards. When you have no purpose in life, there is nothing to look forward to, nothing to strive for. Life becomes dull and uneventful. With purpose, life is exciting. The world is beautiful.

Goal Setting Principles

  • Three sets of goals: primary, secondary, and long range. Your long range goal is one that will be accomplished in approximately six months to a year. Your secondary goal is one that you will achieve in a week. Your primary goal is one that will be accomplished daily.

  • Set goals that are both realistic and flexible. Don't set a goal that is so impossibly high that you ensure failure.

  • Set specific goals.

  • Set adjustable goals.

The Power of Concentration

You need to learn to increase your attention to relevant stimuli and divert your attention away from irrelevant stimuli. In short, you have to learn to engage in selective awareness. No matter how small the task, understand that it is important...everything is significant. Perform every act as if nothing else in the world matters. This is an old Zen principle, you put your whole soul and being into every act that you perform. Of course, this principle can be applied to every endeavor in life. And it should be if you want to be successful in life. No matter what you are doing, whether it is reading, lifting weights, writing, listening to music, watching television, or eating, strive to immerse yourself completely into the activity. No matter how trivial the behavior you are engaging in, give it your full undivided attention. You will find that all activities, the important as well as the unimportant, will assume a new dimension of reality because they have your full attention.

Athletes can be systematically trained prior to competition to be independent and totally focused. Here are a few tips to help you link mind and body together:

  1. First of all, put forth an effort to eliminate all distractions. It only makes sense that the more extraneous stimuli you have in your environment, the harder it will be to concentrate. Consequently, by eliminating extraneous stimuli, you can create an environment that is more conducive for focusing on your task. Music, talking, noises, and even people at times can become a distraction.

  2. In training, learn to fuse mind and body into each and every skill that you attempt. Like Schwarzenegger, get in touch with your muscles. Try to center all of your body's energy into the muscle you are working. Constantly keep your mind in touch with your body. If at times you find your mind wondering, bring it right back to the muscle you're training.

  3. Another helpful suggestion is to learn how to center. As indicated, sports psychologists tell us that it is important for the athlete to "stay in the present." We can't control the future, nor the past, so thinking about these time frames can cause anxiety and stress. Centering helps you "stay in the present" by helping you concentrate on your body and your breathing. This allows you to focus on things other than stress, bad calls, what happened, or what will happen next in the competition. The mere act of thinking about your breathing changes your focus from the negative or anxiety causing event to the present task. Focus on breathing a slow, steady stream of air in through your nose. Feel the air enter your lungs and settle into the center of your body. Blow out through your mouth while thinking a key word or phrase that helps you to refocus on what you need to be doing. Some athletes choose to think, "What do I need to do now?" Others say, "Center."

Psychological Factors Affecting Athletic Performance

The Psyching Game

Although we cannot alter our genetic make-up without cosmetic surgery, there are things we can do to project confidences and power. By learning how to control our body language and our facial reactions, we can eliminate overt signs of nervousness and weakness and at the same time exhibit strength. Here are a few tips:

  • Shave your face.

  • Don't talk a lot and don't move around a lot.

  • Be tough.

  • Try not to show emotion.

  • Take responsibly for your mistakes.