Track Your Success

If you want to get in shape, work out. How simple is that? Easy to say, but hard to do. You must find what motivates you. Most people respond very well to schedules and routines. That is why I recommend putting your workouts in a calendar before you work out. This works best if you write out a week or month in advance. If you have in your schedule spin class Saturday at 9:30AM you are much more likely to go then if just say I will go work out at some point over the weekend. Having a buddy also helps. Someone to push you when you are feeling lazy will give you the external motivation when it isn’t coming from yourself. Also, having someone you are pushing will motivate you to not quit.
I make going to the gym part of my daily routine every day except Thursdays. It is the way I start every day and it as much a part of my morning as breakfast and brushing my teeth. On the weekends I book a class at the gym and work out with a friend whenever possible. If I miss a day, I feel bad. The days where I don’t feel like going, I just push through and 100% of the time I feel better afterwards. I like to work out in the mornings, but whatever time works best for you is fine. Just make it a part of your day.
Another trick to motivate you is to document your progress. You can document your workouts and see how many times you have gone. You can also track results like weight loss or strength gains. Seeing progress is a reward. Some people like to post their results and see this as motivation, but I would hate to disappoint all of my followers.
For one of my sons when he was in high school, he wanted (needed?) to get in shape for soccer. He was relatively small (genetically my fault) and needed to make size and strength gains. We both committed to working out together in the basement 3 times/week for 3 months. There were days I had to fight with him to motivate him, but once he started actually seeing gains he was hooked. The first time we lifted, he benched 40 lbs. and curled 10lb dumbbells. He was tearful at how weak he was. He told me his friends could bench over 150 lbs. I knew he wanted to quit and give up, but he also knew he really wanted to be on the soccer team. He pushed through.
We documented every work out including what exercise, how much weight and how many reps he performed. The first 2 weeks he was in pain and was constantly whining and complaining. But then something happened. His form improved and he actually wanted to work out more. He wanted to increase the weight and was able to do so. He was dramatically improving. Six weeks into working out, I videotaped him curling shirtless and sent it to his big brother who never says anything positive to him. He simply replied, “WTF, is that Ty??” At the end of 3 months he was able to bench 120 lbs. for 6 reps and looked bigger and much more defined. It was noticeable and he was ecstatic with his results.
You know where you want to get and you already know how to get there. All you need is the push. Use a calendar and set a schedule in advance. Find a buddy or class that forces you to go. Use a trainer if you need one. Document your progress and hard work. All of these steps will keep you on the track to better health.

Rick Weinstein, MD, MBA
Director of Orthopedic Surgery
Westchester Sport & Spine of White Plains Hospital

Being Benched: Mental Readiness Tips

How to Go from Being BENCHED to Being YOUR BEST

If there is one role athletes dislike is that of playing the bench. It is often frustrating, upsetting, feels unfair, and it is very hard to get motivated. Athletes feel under-appreciated and wonder when it will be MY chance to start.

Whether they are replaced in the middle of a game, assigned to be a bench player or lost their starting position due to an injury, it is not fun, at all, to watch the game they love from the sidelines.

As challenging as it is, being on the bench actually provides an enormous opportunity to gain mental strength. How you use this role can positively shape the athlete and person you aspire to be. Let’s look at these 3 mindset lenses.

1.    YOU are the one who really moves the needle

All winning teams have strong supporting role players. They are the ones who push hard for starters to excel, cheer teammates to stay focused, and provide motivation for one extra push. Starters often rely on this energy to continue fighting to not give up.

Benched players can often unite or split teammates based on his/her attitude. A team-minded benched player becomes positively contagious to teammates. But an angry benched player is a distraction to other players and coaches. As a benched player, you play a pivotal role to create a strong team atmospher

2. Embrace the unfairness as it will make YOU stronger

If you allow your frustration to take over, it will spill over onto the team and coaches. How YOU choose to respond to unfairness shapes your character. In sports and life, there are many factors outside of your control. You can get mad, disengage from team members, and get angry with the coach; however, all these reactions are yours. And, none of them help you to build positive character. Instead, by accepting the dislike of being benched you will be able to move past the frustration to positively learn from this experience.

Unfairness IS part of your game. It sometimes plays against you, but sometimes it plays in your favor.  As challenging as it is, look at ALL the positives. You can use this time to learn from other players’ techniques, observe in more detail the opponents’ weaknesses, carefully hear how your coach coaches, and do a self-evaluation on areas of your game you need to continue improving. More often than not, most of our learnings come from making adjustments after disappointing experiences.

3.    Accepting your bench role speaks louder about YOU

We all totally agree that being on the bench is the last place you want to be. You’ve been dedicated to your sport to play it, not to be seated by the sideline. But, if you are replaced and benched, nobody wants to be near to or hear from a complainer in a team.

Demonstrating unacceptable behavior will only isolate you from your teammates. On the other hand, accepting with dignity your coach’s decision and use this moment to cheer for your teammates will, by far, enhance yours and your teammates’ role. There is plenty of time to later ask your coach about how to improve for next time.  In the meantime, cheer as you’d like to be cheered.

 

Alex Diaz, PhD

Sports Mental Edge©

Founder

 

The Hype About Green Tea

Tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world; in fact, it is the most widely consumed beverage after water. The main types of teas are green, black, white, and oolong, and Pu’erh. All tea varieties come from the plant Camellia sinensis, but the leaves are oxidized and processed differently. Herbals teas, also known as tisanes, do not come from the same plant source and instead originate from spices, flowers and leaves of plants including fruits and herbs.

Green tea has very high levels of antioxidants since its leaves have not been fermented. It is especially high in flavonoids, which have been shown to have many health benefits, including a decreased risk of heart disease, lowered blood pressure, reduced cholesterol, decreased inflammation, improved memory and reduced risk of cancer.

There are may different types of green tea, but matcha green tea has been getting a lot of recognition for its health benefits, especially as a fat-burner and cancer-fighter. It is finely concentrated ground up tea leaves that possess more nutrients that steeped green tea. Additionally, it has a higher level of chlorophyll and amino acids since the tea plant is covered for 3-4 weeks and is not directly in the sun.

Matcha is known to be high in EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), a catechin, which is a type of antioxidant. Some research shows that may promote weight loss, as was shown in a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It may also boost exercise performance, and help to protect against diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Additionally, matcha is high in L-theanine, which is an amino acid shown to help with anxiety and induce calming.

While matcha green tea has more caffeine than other green teas, it still has less caffeine that coffee. It is high in many beneficial compounds and is worth adding to a healthy diet.

Denise Groothuis MS RD CFMP

Avoiding Burnout

“Should I be concerned that my 15-year-old boy may burnout after being immersed in soccer for the past 10 years? He is putting in a lot of time and I know he loves the game, but sometimes he seems like wanting to quit.” Young athletes are playing the same sport year-round at a very intense level. They compete, practice, plus dedicate gym time as if they were professional athletes. On top of these commitments, they need to meet academic requirements, including attending school and doing homework that barely leaves them with time to sleep. But, should we be concerned that they may crash and burnout?

There is no question that the athletic stakes are much higher than ever before. To earn an athletic spot at a top university is becoming increasingly challenging. NCAA coaches are constantly in the look-out for the best athletes as their respective conferences are also becoming more competitive. The better their athletic program, the more funding they will get. Hence, coaches are selectively looking for the best athletes and they know that if a high-school athlete competes at the varsity and club level, he/she has, by far, much better chances of being recruited.

There are three factors that, when combined, lead to burnout: 1- sport specialization at a very young age; 2- the unfamiliarity of using effective stress management coping skills; and 3- the proliferation of social media as a tool to remain socially connected.

Sport specialization at a young age

An athlete younger than 12-year-old, who plays one sport for more than 8 month/year to the exclusion of participating in other sports, and has limited free playing time is specializing in sports.  Playing just one sport significantly increases the chances of muscle burnout. One of the major concerns is the muscular repetitiveness that often leads to torn muscles. At a young age, muscles are not quite developed, yet, which leads to an increase in injury. The number of ACL surgeries has double in the past 15 years. Although the medical field has made tremendous progress in orthopedic surgeries, there is always the underlying concern that the young athlete may develop fear of re-injury. By then, their own fears will get in the way of returning to compete.

Unfamiliarity of using effective stress management coping skills

Some young athletes learn skill development very quickly. Others happen to be physically strong. In either case, they tend to use those gifts to their advantage and stand out over other competitors. Additionally, many athletes follow Vince Lombardi’s motto, “winners never quit and quitter never win.” Hence, their belief system is to continue plowing along at full speed, and when this strategy begins to fail, then it is time to go even faster. As the competition becomes more intense, these athletes eventually meet equally gifted athletes who give them a run for their money. Unless they have worked on how to properly use sport psychology strategies that prepare them for before and during the game, they will be overwhelmed by the stress of competition. More often than not, those upsetting and frustrating feelings are either ignored or minimized. However, we know that feelings do not go away and will reappear when facing similar situations. Their lack of being able to emotionally navigate challenges eventually leads to underperforming.

Proliferation of social media

The speed with which social media has taken the “space” of these young individuals is beginning to be quite concerning. The greatest loss is in their limited time to personally interact with one another. Instead, social media interaction has overtaken their way of communicating and engaging. Its consequence is that the human nervous system needs the on-to-one interaction to develop its capacity to regulate emotions. It is a physiological requirement, not a personal preference. The less their interaction, the less developed their capacity to navigate stressors and remain focused. If their nervous system is not developed enough to manage competitive stress, then they will be more likely to quit out of frustration of under-performing given their learned skills and talents.

How to avoid burnout

The most important reason for pursuing a sport is because it is fun. The motivation to continue making progress and follow the demanding training and competitive schedules must come exclusively from the athlete, not the adult, coach or teammates. We call it, intrinsic motivation. It is born from within, not from outside. It is the player who needs to embrace to its fullest the grinding of pursuing a sport out of fulfilling his/her own goals, not somebody else’s. In accepting these challenges, stressors will come up. Learning how to be mentally ready and able to negotiate the pressure of competition will greatly enhance the athlete’s abilities to trust and focus. Equally important, learning when to peak, how to rest, and what to eat provide tools excel. When young athletes achieve their goals, it promotes confidence. Intrinsic motivation is a personal experience that can be taken anywhere else in their life.

 

Alex Diaz, PhD

Sports Mental Edge

www.sportsmentaledge.com

Know Your Knee

I am an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine. I see about 30 patients everyday with knee problems and do over 200 knee surgeries every year. Most people with knee pain do not need surgery. If your knee is hurting and not getting better, you need to see a knee specialist.
What are the signs of a knee problem? The most common sign is pain. If you are young and twisted your knee with pain on the sides of the knee, a likely diagnosis is a tear of the meniscus cartilage. This is best diagnosed on physical exam by an orthopedic specialist and can be confirmed with an MRI. If there is a small tear in the meniscus it can heal, but a large tear will require arthroscopic surgery. Those of us who do a lot of these surgeries can typically do it in less than 15 minutes and you can walk immediately after the surgery. It is a quick and easy surgery, but if you can avoid the surgery avoid it.
If you twisted your knee and heard a “pop,” it is likely that you tore your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). This is a very important stabilizer of the knee and if you play any pivoting sports you will need it reconstructed. Unlike a meniscus surgery, ACL surgery means recovery of at least 6 months before you can return to sports.
Swelling of your knee can be caused from either an acute injury or due to a chronic problem. Living in Westchester, if your knee swells without a direct injury test for Lyme disease. If diagnosed early, treatment with antibiotics will prevent long-term complications of Lyme disease which can include arthritis and brain/nerve issues.
If your knee swells and it is red, hot and painful make sure it is not an infection. This is an emergency. If you suspect an infection, go immediately to your orthopedist’s office or go to the emergency room. You cannot wait and ignore this. The consequences of not dealing with an infection early can be life altering.
Knee pain from arthritis usually presents as chronic pain that is getting worse over weeks to months. Pain is usually in the front of the knee and worse going up and down stairs or after sitting for too long. Also, arthritis usually feels worse in the morning when you first get out of bed and at the end of the day when your leg has fatigued.
If your knee hurts or swells, ice and Motrin may be helpful. However, if your symptoms persist or you worry about an infection get it evaluated and diagnosed by a medical doctor who will help get you back to normal activities.
By Dr. Rick Weinstein, MD, MBA
Director of Orthopedic Surgery
Westchester Sport & Spine of White Plains Hospital

Should I Take a Probiotic?

 

Our body contains over 100 trillion bacteria, which is more than all of cells in our body combined! Gut health of the microbiome has been shown to be related to many health conditions today, including obesity, diabetes and depression. The quality of the microorganisms are responsible for preventing or encouraging the onset of diseases. There is a combination of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut, and when the ratio of the bacteria becomes off balance, this can lead to health issues. Our gut bacteria can easily change due to changes in our food, environment, and lifestyle. This is where probiotics can help correct imbalances and improve our health.

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are helpful and benefit the digestive system. There is a great deal of research on the benefits of probiotics and how they improve health conditions. They have been shown to boost cognitive function and improve memory, anxiety, depression, autism symptoms, stress, and OCD. Probiotics improve gut health and decrease GI issues such as IBS, and they aid in the digestion and absorption of nutrients, such as B12, calcium, zinc and phosphorus. Intake of probiotics has also been shown to help promote weight loss, to improve HDL levels, and to improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control. Lastly, probiotic help reduce inflammation and improve immune health.

There are many different strains of probiotics, and some studies show that different strains are beneficial at healing certain ailments. For example, some strains may improve immune function while others promote hormonal balance. When purchasing a probiotic, purchase a reputable brand, and try to pick one with multiple strains. SBOs (soil based organisms) are a new popular trend of probiotics. They are probiotic strains/microbes found in soil, which used to be a large part of our ancestral diet. Proponents state that they increase gut diversity and benefit gut health, especially those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). Common SBO strains are bacillus subtilis, bacillus clausii, saccharomyces boulardii, lactobacillus plantarum, and bacillus coagulans.

Everyone’s gut microbiome is different, and different strains will react differently in our bodies. In my opinion, a probiotic can be beneficial for just about everyone. They are especially helping for those with persistent GI issues, allergies, asthma, frequent yeast infections, autoimmune conditions, anxiety, and skin conditions. They are also beneficial with those with a history of antibiotic use and when one is on a weight loss program or traveling. If probiotics cause your digestive symptoms to get worse, stop them immediately.

by Denise Groothuis MS RD CFMP

10 Success Strategies for Boosting Your Immune System

Many over the counter products, vitamins and supplements claim to help improve your health, but the best strategies for boosting your immune system involve a number of simple lifestyle strategies anyone can follow through with. Some of the best success strategies to boost and support your immune system are:

  1. Eating a healthy diet
  2. Losing weight if you are carrying extra pounds
  3. Exercising regularly
  4. Getting more quality sleep
  5. Decreasing stress levels
  6. Making time for yourself
  7. Socializing with friends and family
  8. Quitting smoking
  9. Avoiding or minimizing antibiotic use
  10. Cutting down on your alcohol consumption

Let’s look at each of these success strategies in turn.

We are what we eat, digest and absorb, so a healthy diet goes a long way in preserving our health. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables offers a range of nutrients, phytochemicals and antioxidants, powerful disease-fighting molecules found in certain foods such a berries, legumes and apples. Eating a rainbow every day will help you achieve a balanced diet, and the fiber and water in these foods will also help you feel full and satisfied for longer, which in turn can help with weight loss.

If you are carrying extra weight, turn to clean natural foods to help slim down. Don’t rely on supplements or packaged diet foods, but rather, fresh organic fruits and vegetables, healthy, properly-raised animal protein, wild fish and smaller portions.

Regular exercise can not only help you achieve your weight loss goals, but boost your immunity too. Exercise improves digestion, brain function and helps eliminate toxins from the body through sweating. It also stimulates circulation, including not only the blood but the lymphatic system, which helps the body fight and prevent illness.

Getting more sleep can help boost the immune system, especially high-quality, deep, restorative sleep. If you’re feeling stressed, it can be difficult to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. Stress reduction strategies such as meditation can help lower your stress levels and improve your quality of sleep.

You can also decrease your stress by making more time for yourself to do some of the things you enjoy. This can include hobbies, time at the gym getting more exercise, or going for long walks. It should also include nurturing the relationships that are important to you by spending quality time with friends and family. Loneliness and feelings of isolation can make you feel run down but surrounding yourself with positive people can help boost your immune system.

By now we all know about the negative effects of smoking on the body, especially the immune system. It scorches away the cilia, the little hairs that line the nostrils and nasal passages, for example, making it far easier for germs to get into your body. It also decreases circulation in the microscopic blood vessles leading to slowed healing.

Many people turn to a range of pills in an attempt to boost their health, and when used correctly, they may be beneficial. The flipside is that excessive use can cause harm. In particular, antibiotics can damage your immune system as they kill off both helpful and harmful bacteria. They do not help against viruses such as colds and flu, so do not ask for a prescription from your doctor in the hope you will get better faster.

If you do have to take an antibiotic, take it EXACTLY as prescribed. Once you have finished the full course of treatment, consider probiotics to help get your system back in balance.

Finally, if you consume a lot of alcohol, especially in an attempt to reduce stress, try cutting down. Alcohol has many negative effects on the body, including suppressing the immune system and increasing inflammation.

Adopt these simple, practical success strategies to boost your immune system and see what a difference they can make to your health.

by Dr. Robert Inesta, DC L.Ac CFMP CCSP

Viavitae Health

Confused About CBD Oil?

There has been a lot of buzz about CBD oil and many people are confused about what it is, how it differs from marijuana (cannabis) and how to use it. Cannabis is a drug that is approved for recreational/medicinal use in some states in the US. Cannabis contains a substance called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is responsible for the psychoactive properties of the plant.  In additional to THC, cannabis contains many other biologically active compounds called phytocannabinoids. One of these compounds is called cannabidiol (CBD), and it has been shown to have significant anti-inflammatory and pain reducing properties without the psychoactive “high” effect of THC. Therefore, cannabis oil is not the same as CBD oil since cannabis oil contains CBD oil and THC while CBD oil does not.

Research has shown many benefits from CBD oil including pain relief, decreased anxiety and depression, a reduction in cancer-related symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, improvement of acne, neuroprotective properties, treatment of  symptoms related to Parkinson’s and epilepsy, and improvement of gut health and heart health. Further some research shows that CBD oil may help treat diabetes and substance abuse and prevent certain cancers and diabetes.

CBD oil is derived either from the cannabis plant or the hemp plant and then diluted with a carrier oil such as hemp seed oil or coconut oil. Hemp is a plant that comes from the same genus as the Cannabis plant, but only has trace amount of THC, usually less than .3%. The majority of CBD oil comes from industrial hemp. CBD oil can be extracted as a full spectrum oil or a crystalline isolate.

CBD oil products come as oils, tinctures, vapors, capsules, topical balms, teas, and sprays and they vary in concentrations. Higher concentrations have more CBD cannabinoid. It is difficult to suggest a dosage for CBD oil, because everyone is different, and weight, genetics, environment, diet, metabolism, and the product type all affect how it works. It is always important to start with the minimal suggested dose of the product then increase the dosage gradually. The dosage should be determined by your body weight, the reason you are taking CBD, and what kind of effect (mild, moderate, or high) you desire. There are varying recommendations for determining the correct CBD dosage. Some experts state that 5 mg is a good starting point, and it can be increased 7-10mg per use as necessary.  Desired effects are often found at 10 mg 1-2 times per day. Other guidelines state those under 130# should take a dosage ranging from 11-17mg, while those over 230 pounds should range from 23-45 mg. Websites on pain recommend higher doses, with as much as 1-6mg per every 10 pounds of body weight.

It is very important to buy high quality CBD oil, since it is not regulated by the FDA. High quality oil has been tested by accredited laboratories and is free of pesticides, residual solvents from the extraction process, heavy metals, bacteria and fungus. When purchasing CBD oil, you should determine the extraction method used to process the oil. You do not want to buy a product that uses toxic materials like propane or butane. Instead look for safer extraction methods, such as ethanol and carbon dioxide. You should also research if the hemp is organic and learn about the farm where it is grown so it is not contaminated with metals and unwanted minerals. Also consider whether the CBD oil was tested by a third-party to meet quality standards, and avoid oils that do not give information about their third party testing.

As with all supplements, consult a doctor before you take CBD oil to determine if it is right for you.

by Denise Groothuis MS RD CFMP

Getting in Shape 2019

It’s a new year and time to get in better shape. For many people that means losing weight. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 47% of Latinos, 47% of black adults and 38% of white adults are obese. Overall 40% of American adults are obese and 19% of American youths. Obesity is slightly more common in women than men. This is a major health issue in our country. It cannot be called an epidemic because it is not contagious, but it is a growing issue with rates increasing for the past 20 years. Its ironic that we seem to have so many people dieting and joining gyms and so many diet foods in 2019, but we have more overweight people than ever before. What’s the problem?

Weight gain or loss is really just simple math. If you burn more calories than you consume you lose weight. Eat more than you burn you gain weight. There are so many diets including keto diets and low carb diets, nutri system and weight watchers and even the paleo diet and Zone diet. Some diets are dangerous and you should discuss options with your medical doctor or a certified nutritionist before making any drastic changes. All diets work by reducing your calorie intake…that’s it! There is no magic or secret to weight loss.

In terms of numbers to lose a pound you need to reduce your calories by 3,500. This done by decreasing how much you eat and also through burning more calories. This is very doable by combining eating less and working out more. To lose 1 pound a week, all you need to do is decrease calories by 250 each day and burn 250 more calories each day. In previous articles I discussed that interval training is much more effective in working out in a shorter amount of time. It would take about 20 minutes on an elliptical or treadmill to burn these calories but the intervals need to be hard getting your heart rate up to 80% of your max (220-age). Do hills or sprints for 2 minutes then go lighter for 2 minute intervals.

When it comes to working out try and do something every day. Do what you like. It should be hard but somewhat enjoyable. You will feel better after even those days you are feeling less motivated.

My simple rules to weight loss.

  1. Do not eat anything fried.
  2. Do not have dessert.
  3. Do not get so hungry that you will eat whatever is in front of you – that means having a snack in the late afternoon and perhaps in the morning to offset your hunger.

The bottom line is to get in shape this year, pick realistic goals. Eat healthier and work out every day.

 

Rick Weinstein, MD, MBA

Director of Orthopedic Surgery

Westchester Sport & Spine of White Plains Hospital

Choking

High level of emotions felt under pressure situations may undermine an athlete’s best skills leading to under-performing when it matters most. We can easily point out to the exact moment when choking occurs, but does missing a free-throw, penalty kick, or a 3-foot putt for birdie mean that the athlete choked?

Choking is more often than not the result of a process leading to under-performing than an isolated missed execution. Everybody misses free throws, penalty kicks, or short putts. And, emotions do not just show up all of the sudden. What we think prior to the game, our expectations, somebody else’s expectations, meaning of the game, and past experiences are all factors influencing performance. How we come mentally prepared to compete can greatly influence how we perform when the emotions of the game are at its highest level.

John McEnroe said it best: “When it comes to choking, the bottom line is that everyone does it. The question isn’t whether you choke or not, but how -when you choke- you are going to handle it. Choking is a big part of every sport, and part of being a champion is being able to cope with it better than everyone else.” (Goffi, 1984, pp 61-62).

As competition is about to start, the heart beat speeds up, muscles tense, and the breathing accelerates. What we think about the competition concurs with an immediate physiological reaction. Thoughts and body felt sense responses go hand-in-hand. It is a human response, not an individual response. Everyone’s bodies go through the same experience. Maybe for some individuals, the felt sense responses are less pronounced than for others. Regardless of your personal experience, negating, minimizing, or pretending that “I am fine” will only exacerbate the sensations. Unless these experiences are well managed, emotions will really come up when the game is on the line and, by then, it will be too late. The inability to better cope with normal competitive emotions will lead to loss of focus, increased muscle tension, under-performing, and later lamenting for not being able to show your true talents.

One of the ways to enhance your ability to manage emotions is by paying close attention to what you can vs. cannot manage. If emphasis is placed on meeting past successful results, then such expectations will only increase tension as past experiences do not dictate how you are performing right now. It may provide information to help you design your strategy, but it will not execute present tasks. For example, a tennis player who easily beat an opponent in their last match will be mistaken to overly rely on such an outcome to minimize his/her own preparation. If the opponent made significant improvements and you came in unprepared, when the game is on the line, pressure will tense your muscles and increase the chances of making mistakes.

Also, playing in a team sport may adds pressure as the thought of not wanting to let teammates down often enhances self-pressure. It is important that a team meeting takes place where a discussion about the pressure of wanting to do well and the fear of not wanting to let others down are verbally expressed. It is vital that teammates feel the support of one another to strengthen team spirit. Fear concerns are in everybody’s mind. We tend to believe that we are the only ones who have these concerns, but it is often a common concern that everybody has. Fearful thoughts and stressful feelings can easily remain hidden only to come up to the surface when the pressure is on and, by then, it is too late.

Another good mental preparation happens on the night before competition. Going to bed early, imagining all possible competitive scenarios and creating mental rehearsals on how to overcome those situations, including having success and experiencing a loss, practicing breathing relaxation, and remaining positive are all mental tools that foster readiness.

We only have control over our own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. It is very easy to get distracted by what others are saying, bad weather conditions, unfair referee calls, and the opponent’s untimely good luck. Bring your attention to what you can control and embrace the process. If it was a successful experience, then celebrate it and remain focused. If it was an unsuccessful experience, then accept it as such without remaining overly emotionally attached and use a cue signal that fosters re- focusing.

To Parents: they can also serve as emotion regulators by reminding game strategies, focusing on variables that the athlete can control, such as positive talk, breathing relaxation, and mental rehearsal, and cheering for all his/her efforts. It builds internal trust and confidence. On the other hand, focusing on winning, saying that his/her child is the best, or yelling when an error is made will increase pressure. Learning comes from making constant adjustment. The more parents support the athlete’s ability to trust in their skills and learn from mistakes, the more likely the athlete will trust in his/her self-beliefs.

 

Alex Diaz, PhD

Sports Mental Edge