There’s a certain rush, a buzz, a surge of energy and excitement that comes with competing in sport. How might athletes bridge the gap to competition, and maximise their training? There is, after all, nothing quite like performing on a stage with some healthy competition to spur you on!
No wonder then, that there’s often a disconnect between performance in training and competition. Sports coaches often find that their athletes go the extra mile when under pressure – and that’s something that can be harnessed and used in training too.
Athlete training regimes are part of the ‘day-to-day’ admin of the sport. It’s the foundations that are laid during this build-up, that pay dividends when it comes to competing. However, keeping the same level of motivation, enthusiasm and dedication in training as one might in competition, can be hard to sustain. There’s no question that the added adrenalin that competition creates can give us that extra edge to go just that bit further.
So then, how can athletes bridge the gap between their athletic training programmes and competing? Here we examine a few ways:
Increase the pressure
There’s no denying that the added pressure of competition can make us step up to the plate. Incorporating this sentiment into our daily sport regime can be a challenge. Sports coaches often recommend recreating the competition environment to elicit the same response, and help with bridging the gap to competition.
This might be mimicking a competition with other athletes, to help get you in ‘the zone’. Alternatively, it could be part of imagery techniques, when you visualise yourself taking part in a competition. In fact, mental rehearsal plays an important role in imagery and can positively influence the way you perform, why not try it next time you train?
One way to keep the momentum during training is to plan your training programmes in advance. Work with your sports coach to set some achievable goals, and integrate these into your training regime. Plan what you would like to achieve in each training session and have targets to aim for. This is a successful motivational tool, to help keep the momentum you have been working hard towards.
Run like no-ones watching!
You’ve heard the expression ‘sing like no-ones listening’ – well the same applies to your sport. Practice how you compete, try and block out the external distractions and focus on self-improvement.
Training may not quite have the buzz of a competition, but it’s a prelude to getting you there. Use training as an opportunity to bridge the gap to competition, and develop skills and habits that can be adopted when you reach competition stage.
Mock up scenarios
In your athletic performance training mock up scenarios to see how you might overcome obstacles. An experienced sports coach will have a number of scenarios to throw at you, to see how you cope each time. Bridging the gap to competition is facilitated by a great coach. It is literally a case of ‘practice makes perfect’.
In doing this, you’re also increasing your problem-solving skills, which will serve you well in competitions. Also, mixing it up and trying something different can offer a fresh perspective, which can be motivating.
Eyes on the prize
It’s OK to acknowledge that training and competitions are two separate beasts. However, one cannot exist without the other. Athlete training is crucial in building stamina, performance and skills, helping to push you reach your potential.
Staying focused is a skill that takes time to develop, but will indeed help in competition. Use training sessions to improve your performance and skills, remain as focused on each session as you would a competition. In sports psychology, this unwavering determination is often the difference between success and failure in an athlete’s career.
Moving on from failure
Failure is part of the journey. It’s also a hard lesson to learn and even harder to bounce back from. When morale is low after losing in a competition you worked hard for, it can be a challenge to recover from. Mental preparation can take days, weeks and maybe longer to revive. Firstly, remember to be kind to yourself; it’s OK to be disappointed – it’s a natural side-effect of having a knock-back.
However, in order to move on from failure, we must learn from our mistakes. As Billie Jean King once said: “Champions keep playing until they get it right”
Think about what you learnt from your setback and use your training sessions to tackle this.
Have you ever wondered why you go that extra mile in a competition? Somehow, even when you’re running on zero, you manage to dig deep and find the energy to go just that bit further – even when the lactic acid is telling you to stop! The reason: sheer determination.
Your mind can be powerful, and may outrun your physical ability at times. So, think about what makes you want to go that extra mile. Is it the competition spurring you on? The buzz of having an audience? Or just being so close to the last hurdle? Whatever gives you that extra kick, identify it, grab it and use it in training. Use it as a tool to push harder, further and stronger than ever before.
Success is a long-term strategy
Success is not an overnight accomplishment. Anyone in the world of sport knows that it can take months and years of hard work, dedication and intense athletic performance training to achieve results.
With that in mind, it’s important to remind yourself that training is an integral part of your accomplishments. What you learn in training from your sports coach and team members, will set you up for the competitions ahead.
It starts way before qualifiers or events – as far back as the build-up in the weeks and months before competition. Competition success is a cumulative build-up of diet, dedication and hard work in the run up to its event. That’s why your training regime is so important, and forms part of your overall success.
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