Peak Performance Psychology By Dr. Alan Goldberg, Sports Psychologist, Amherst, MA
Running performance is as much mental as it is physical. By regularly practicing these 8 rules created by sport psychologist, Dr. Alan Goldberg, I guarantee your running/racing will be more consistently positive. Rules #1, #5, #8 particularly resonate with me. - Sean
PAY YOUR PHYSICAL DUES – There is NO substitute for hard work. Peak performance
comes out of a solid base of physical training. If you’ve done your homework
and trained well, you have a right to feel confident about your performance. If
you’ve slacked off, trying to feel positive about your performance is a joke –
and it’s on you! Do everything possible in your power, and then do a little
more! Confident, peak performances come from knowing you’ve trained long and
hard – and smart.
2. REMIND YOURSELF OF #1 – Before you perform it’s useful for you to remind yourself of everything that you’ve done to prepare. Sometimes under pressure you get nervous and don’t think clearly. You forget how well you’ve trained. Get into the habit of regularly reminding yourself that you’ve paid your physical dues, that you’ve done everything possible to be ready.
3. DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF WITH OTHERS, FOCUS ON YOU – One of the biggest performance drains is comparing yourself with opponents, with their speed, training habits, record, etc. Save yourself the aggravation! Comparison is a LOSING game! You’ll always find athletes who actually are or who you think are better than you. This is not a useful pre-performance ritual. Focus on YOU. Stay inside yourself. Run your OWN race. It really doesn’t matter if someone is faster, stronger or bigger than you. The bottom line is that in any given game/race, the best athlete or team doesn’t usually come out on top! It’s the athlete or team that has more focus, confidence and concentration – in other words the one who can keep their head on straight for that competition – that wins!
4. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL – Another confidence drain is to focus on “uncontrollables” or things about the performance that are directly out of your control. Focusing on “UC’s” will make you uptight, kill your confidence and sabotage your performance. “Uncontrollables” are your opponent, the officiating, your coach (if you don’t like him/her), the weather, field conditions, the past, the outcome, social distractions, other people’s expectations, etc. Keep your focus on what you can control!
5. DWELL ON THE POSITIVE – Get in the habit of looking for the upside of things. Being negative will not only kill your own confidence, but it can also sap the confidence of those around you. If the weather is foul, dwell on how this will bother your opponents more than you. If an opponent is faster or stronger, think about how they have much more to lose than you since you’re not expected to win. Whatever it takes: Be positive! You’ll feel better about yourself and perform at a higher level.
6. CATCH YOURSELF DOING THINGS RIGHT – Start today to keep a “victory log” or a journal of the little things you did that day which were smart, small victories. If you pushed yourself beyond a training limit, record that. If you ran a little further, or faster, swam a little harder, record those. By getting in the habit of “hunting for your little daily victories” and writing them down, you will gradually build your self-confidence and that will contribute to consistent performance. Keep your victory log handy and review it daily, especially when you’re down.
7. BE A GOOD COACH TO YOURSELF – Get in the habit of being a forgiving, positive coach to yourself. When you make mistakes, learn from them and let them go. Don’t dwell on your mistakes and failures. Forgive yourself for them and then move on. Dwelling on a unsatisfactory performance and beating yourself up will only fill you with self-doubts. It will not make you a better athlete. Good coaches are forgiving and positive. Practice being one to yourself.
8. REALIZE IT’S OK TO FAIL – Every athlete fails. It’s critical to realize that failing is not only okay, failing is a tremendous opportunity. No athlete arrives fully formed; athletes are developed through work, trial and error. The best ones – the champions – learn from failing. They study every aspect of a failure and correct whatever specific shortfalls they experienced during a competition that caused the failure in the first place. Eventually they achieve their peak performance through this process, but it starts with having the mental toughness to accept failure and turn it into an advantage. Here’s how it can work for you: Start with being unafraid to fail; at the same time, practice rules 1-7 and develop your ability to concentrate on the PPP principles, turning this ability into a core, focused attitude; over time you will lock in this attitude and it will become an anchor of mental strength and inner toughness – and give you a unique advantage over opponents who fear failure so much it hinders their performance.