The Elusive “Zone”

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Every Athlete wants to access the “Zone”, that perfect state of mind in which they can create their best performance.

This is the state in which the athlete separates mind from body to allow the body to function automatically at the highest skill level whilst the ‘mind’ looks on and manages external environment.

Ten steps to achieving the “Zone”.

1.  Achieve full physical relaxation.

There are so many ways to do this from simple breathing exercises to meditation.

Determine your most chosen preference, seeing, hearing or feeling.

Seeing (or visual) just means forming a picture in your mind of a soothing picture or scene where you can relax and enjoy the moment.

Hearing (or auditory) is listening to relaxing music or imagining it in your head.

Feeling (or kinesthetic) can be anything from controled breathing to progressive muscle relaxation.

Let’s try a sample of each;

Imagine a place where you can be totally at ease, safe , secure, with friends or alone.  Explore all facets of your ‘sanctuary’ and immerse yourself in the atmosphere.

Put your earphones on (real or imagined) and listen to soft, gentle music or sounds.  Imagine yourself playing various instruments along with the other performers.  Realise that you can be a whole orchestra in your head if you want tro be.

Be aware of all the muscles in your body, starting from the scalp to the toes.  Tense and release each muscle all the way down.  Tensing up on the in breath and relaxing on the out breath.  Finally tense all the muscles at once, then let them all go.  As you relax deeper and deeper check that all the muscles are letting go.  Lay there and enjoy.

Trying to relax in the middle of pandemonium can be quite difficult ( and maybe not a wise thing) but taking small steps in that direction is easier than trying to jump from anxiety to calm.  Just try to think of a ‘better’ thought.

Three things to think about;

Where would you love to be.

Who would you love to be.

What would you love to have.


Whose Voice is That?

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Most of the factors preventing an athlete achieving optimum performance (the best they can be) come down to self esteem.

This shows up more in their ‘self talk’ than anywhere else, so I now ask them to be aware of the ‘internal’ voice when they consider their long & short term goals, and to start ‘tapping ‘ on any negative beliefs.

We will deal with tapping later on but in NLP terms let’s examine the ‘voice’.  Whose voice is it?  Does it sound like someone you know?  Are the words & phrases familiar, perhaps learned from someone you know?  Think about the tonality, timbre & volume as well as where in your head the voice is located.

Once you have identified  (some of)  these points start to imagine how it would be if they were  a little different.  For example; would there be less emotional impact if the voice were softer, more loving or kind?  Would it matter if the voice were to sound like Bugs Bunny or Shreck?  Could you actually replace the whole thing with words imagined from a mentor or someone you trust or admire?  Words of consolation or inspiration?

The wonderful thing about imagination is that that is all it is even though we think of it as real.  The best thing is that we can change it to whatever we want.  It’s up to us.

Performance Goals

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All the books written about achievment seem to have one thing in common; they all stress the need for a goal.  Fortunately, in sport, the physical goals are easily defined, a time to better, a medal to win.  Mental goals are usually less clear.  what is ‘mental toughness’, ‘focus’, ‘in the zone’?  How does one stay calm under pressure but keep the adrenaline flowwing?

Previously I have used relaxation techniques and visualisation based on Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).  Whilst this has taken many years to acquire to Professional level it has paid dividends in the results my athletes achieve.  Now we can shortcut a lot of programming with EFT and the path towards the mental goals is a lot easier.