Body in Sports
by Lidia Wasowicz -
For the Olympian and for the
Little Leaguer, the adage, "Strong minds make strong bodies,'' has never been
truer, according to sports psychologists.
presentation at the 51st Annual Convention of the California Psychological
Association in Pasadena, Calif., those in the know say reaching peak athletic
performance requires not only physical strength and control but also sharp
mental skills, such as concentration, stress management and
Richard Suinn of
Colorado State University notes the influx of sports psychology into training
programs of U.S. National Team members in such sports as track and
performance, he recommends seven mind skills: relaxation,
stress management, thought control, self-regulation, visualization,
concentration and programming for competition.
has been linked to injury prevention
since injuries are more likely to occur where there is muscle
tension, he points out. For endurance events, the ability to relax can conserve
energy -- and bring in that trophy.
relaxation technique is called Jacobsen deep muscle
relaxation. It involves tensing, then relaxing each of several
muscle groups. This 45-minute routine is done daily for a week. The technique
can be enhanced with deep breathing, repeated several times after the last
muscle group is relaxed.
The athlete is
thus conditioned to use the deep breath as a trigger for the body to relax at a
future sporting event.
also a breathing technique aimed at ``centering.'' In centering, the athlete stands, eyes closed,
then inhales and exhales using the stomach wall. Says Suinn, ``Athletes should routinely use the deep breath or the
centering during training before their events.''
that athletes keep logs of stress situations, such as during warmups or
following a poor first throw. The log should include such reactions as muscle
tightness or feeling ``irritated.''
Stress can be
relieved with anxiety management training, in which the athlete is taught
relaxation, then confronted with a stressful situation, such as waiting for the
starting gun. The athlete relaxes, visualizes a scene down to the minutest
detail, and permits the stress reaction to build. While still in the scene, the
athlete relaxes through the deep breath or centered breathing.
athletes experience negative thoughts, Suinn says, ``the difference between a
successful and unsuccessful athlete is in what the athlete does with these
uses the negative thoughts as information on how to adjust his
performance; the loser is more likely to wallow in the
negativity. Self-regulation means
recognizing the level of body activation needed for peak
``Being too activated will mean being jumpy, and smooth timing can be affected.
Being underactivated will mean not being up to par.''
athlete should use the logs to identify the optimal arousal level. One
way is to measure the heart rate. Another is to rate one's self
subjectively: ``On a scale of 0-100, where do I stand?''
probably the best known technique. Athletes such as golfer Jack Nicklaus, skier
Jean-Claude Killy, jumper Dwight Stones and tennis player Chris Evert-Lloyd all
use imagery as part of their preparation.
Suinn, ``The major difference in our program is the systematic nature of
the training and applications of visualization.''
In addition to
enhancing physical performance, visualization can be used to practice all the
other psychological skills. In learning to
concentrate, an athlete needs anchors. For example, a discus thrower who gets
distracted might focus his attention by first thoroughly feeling the
texture of the discus with his fingertips.
psychological skills are learned and strengthened, Suinn says, they need to be
incorporated into the overall program of preparing for competition.
(Written by UPI Science
Writer Lidia Wasowicz in San Francisco)PASADENA, Calif., March 26 (UPI)