Life Fitness

Saturday 20 September 2014

Sport can make you happy and confident

Deirdre Hassett

Published 04/08/2014 | 00:00

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It's important to visualise your performance. Photo: Getty Images.
It's important to visualise your performance. Photo: Getty Images.

I've been acting as a triathlon agony aunt, counselling my friend Minel over the last few weeks on her big season race - her first half-ironman triathlon.

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As she was well trained and prepared, most of my advice was about controlling her nerves, visualising her race and maintaining a positive attitude.

The same weekend that Minel was anxiously warming up for her race, the Vineman Triathlon, I was toeing the line for my own big performance - in heels, as I'd volunteered to sing at 
a family wedding.

I was also a little terror-stricken, until I realised how many parallels there are between being a successful athlete and performing in other non-sports areas. A lot of the mental skills athletes use to compete are applicable to everyday life.

Sports psychologists say that successful athletes maintain a positive attitude, are self-motivated and set high but realistic goals. They use positive imagery to prepare themselves for competition and self-talk 
to maintain confidence during difficult times.

Good athletes are also conscious of performance anxiety and other strong emotions, such as excitement or anger, and are aware that, if they are channelled correctly, they can improve performance. Furthermore, they know how to maintain concentration and focus and to ignore distractions.

The question is, has any of this rubbed off on me over the years I've slogged through increasingly longer and more ambitious endurance events?

The more I race, the more familiar I am with the nuances of a good performance, dealing with nerves, becoming mentally prepared and pushing hard to the best of my ability so that I end up with a similar result regardless of whether I'm tired or fresh. I've learned how to set realistic goals, and to be happy with improvements.

Visualisation of a strong race performance is a trick I've employed time and again for big events. I've certainly been overwhelmed with nerves on the eve of each 
big new event distance over the years. While the nerves are inevitable, I've realised they are another part of the process. And because I'm vested in my performance, I've learned how to deal with them.

Battling through sporting events has translated to more confidence in performance situations in other parts of my life.

Oh - and Minel did great, overcoming her nerves and even fixing a puncture on the fly to finish her first 
half-ironman!

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