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vida mind – mental conditioning – mental training – sport psychology
Australia – Melbourne – Sydney – Adelaide – Canberra – Brisbane

Working on your mental game, you will soon ask yourself the following questions about the routine patterns of thoughts and behaviours that you engage in prior to executing your skill. Is the overall lenght of the routine important? What components make up a successful routine? How well practiced should a routine be and is there a need to change established routines? Here are some answers …

A persistent belief claims that a routine – what we do just before the movement – made of the same actions repeated systematically in a given time, ensures excellent performance. The reason for this is quite simple and attractive: if we make the same movements, we put the same (good) conditions in place and therefore, it causes a good performance. According to this belief, we should teach a fixed routine to obtain consistent results.

The problem is that a routine is not solely composed of actions that can be observed. The athlete’s performance routine certainly includes observable behaviors, but also thoughts. These thoughts and mental images are related to concentration and focus (where we put our attention). Moreover, these thoughts and images are most of the time associated with physical sensations and feelings. In addition, some behaviors, such as deep breathing or eye movements are not always observable. These behaviors are always the same … except when they are not! In fact, they vary every time – and they vary a lot.

Repeating ritual actions before hitting a tennis serve is not logically linked to accuracy in tennis. A beginner may perform these rituals carefully without ever reaching the box. So you must distinguish between behaviors that are relevant to your performance from those who seek to regulate emotions. This brings the question: Do you wish to control your thoughts, your emotions, your performance or … your routine? The answer is certainly, a high and regular performance – not a nice routine! The routine is only a means and not an end in itself.

A very effective routine  leads to focus your attention to a point which facilitates automatic execution of actions

vida mind – mental conditioning – mental training – sport psychology
Australia – Melbourne – Sydney – Adelaide – Canberra – Brisbane

A regular routine is supposed to be effective for skills that are identical. But sports actions are never the same. Too many factors are involved – everything varies and changes. In tennis, for instance, since the task during a point will vary – except for the serve of course – it is not always logical to always perform the same routine. The structure of the routine (the sequence of the elements included in it) should stay the same, but the content should stay flexible to adapt to the requirements of each situation. In fact we all do this naturally, but sometimes under stress, or when taught to repeat always the same routine – we fall into rigid thoughts and behaviors that doesn’t help our game at all. Thus, a very effective routine should lead to focus your attention to a point which facilitates automatic execution of actions, and therefore good performance.

Why good and flexible routines can help you to improve your performance

First, routines control distractions. When the stakes rise, distractions and thoughts are more numerous and more disturbing. Then you have a tendency to focus on yourself as your muscles tense and your heart rate accelerates. You perceive these signs and create distractions that can be controlled by routines.

Second, routines can regulate the activation level (stress, energy). Breathing more slowly, relaxing the muscles or, to the contrary, warming up physically, are routine actions that facilitate the achievement of an optimal energy level. This is very useful especially when the practice is interrupted, or even during the course of action without interruptions.

Third, routines are beneficial to help create automatic actions. During game interruptions – like between game in tennis – movements are not immediately fluid. Routines can therefore be very useful for you to achieve a more fluid or a faster execution of movement.

Routines generally consit of 3 steps. The first one is a transition phase between the previous action and the next action. During this moment, you take a short time to consider your next action or your next strategy. This reflection applies not only ot events that have already happened or those that will come, but also to the physical state and the thoughts of the movement. This short reflection leads to a decision phase, where a choice to direct the attention toward a point, if possible external is made. You then consider a target, or a result you want to obtain.

Finally, during the third phase, you must fix your gaze on what you seek to accomplish. The third phase is the time to move from thought to action, so that the movements already learned can be done without thinking.

The third phase of your routine is the time to move from thought to action

This structure – 3 phases – is adaptable to different sports, but must be individualised according to the habits of each athlete.

 

If you want to improve your performance and to know more about Vida Mind, do a free session with Dr. Damien Lafont. Contact him at info@vidamind.com.au or call 0435 819 262 and he will get in touch with you to schedule 45 min with you either in person or over Skype. In this free info session with him, you’ll go through what is keeping your performing at your best. You’ll know Dr Lafont, how he works and whether you are a good fit for each other.