Ideal Performance State: Practical Tips to be Switched On

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So you're about to compete yet you don't feel as though you're in the optimal zone. This happens often. All's great in training, then right before competition, your body just doesn't seem to listen. You feel either low or high levels of body activation. Is there a way to get the ideal activation levels? Yes absolutely. Let's dive into what's happening first. 

The Speedometer

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You've been in a car before. What does every car have behind the steering wheel? Yup it's called the dashboard. And this dashboard has a speedometer on it. Well, just like the speedometer tells the driver how fast the car is going, we have ways to determine our activation levels. Okay, let's dive into how that works. 

There are three speeds: slow, ideal, and fast. And your speedometer extends to everyday life, not just to sport. I base the analogy on research on arousal levels. Keep in mind that we want to strive for ideal speed, and that being at either extreme draws from ideal performance. The heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability are also different in the different states. Here is what you may feel, think, and do at the different speeds.

SLOW (heart rate too low)

Not caring
Slow decision making

IDEAL (heart rate in right zone)

Switched on
Making optimal decisions

FAST (heart rate too high)

Making rash decisions

Okay that’s all great. But how do I use mental strategies to get into the ideal speed?

Tips to Get Into The ideal Speed Before Competing

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step off the gas pedal or on the break

  • Check your body language. Make sure your chest and head are up, and shoulders are back. Body language affects the mind and as a result affects your activation levels. This affects your speed. 
  • Warm-up more. It may be that you’re not warmed up properly. So jump into that dynamic warm up and get your heart rate up, your muscles working and your breath going. 
  • Music. Find music that is upbeat and will make your heart rate go up. Pump up songs are great for that. Listen to it during your warm up. Here’s a free website you can use for that.

step on the gal pedal and gear up

  • Relaxation. Try a breathing exercise to focus on your breath, quiet your mind and calm your heart rate. Here is a guided one you might try.
  • Mindfulness. Focusing on your breath is powerful, especially as a daily habit. Tons of research supports it's effectiveness as a refocusing strategy. Here is an intro to what mindfulness is.
  • Music. Find music that is calming and will make your heart rate go down. Music with powerful lyrics will do the job. Here’s a website you can use for that.

Main Takeaways

  • Figure out what you do, think and feel when you're slow, ideal and fast
  • Check your speed at the start of competition and during breaks in play
  • Use the appropriate mental strategies to go towards the ideal body activation


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