Art of psyching up, out

Innocent Choga Fitness
Psyching is a very helpful technique in exercising and a very important aspect in sporting competition. Psyching can be planned but sometimes it happens naturally without us being aware of what we are doing exactly. We all have various concentration techniques or mental imagery that we use to enhance our performance. It also refers to the mental preparation athletes undertake before a competition or a match, at half time, and even after scoring a goal or a point.

Psyching up prepares us mentally. It gives us strength and energy to stay focused enabling us to tackle the pending workout or exercise or performance during competition.

Mental practice enables us to intrinsically feel and see a move in our imagination before we execute it. This feeling becomes what Lionel Messi would call instinct. This reminds me of a bar talk story that I heard from one soccer coach, Cornelius Piroro, about Maradona during a practice session at a different training ground.

They say Maradona kicked a ball and it hit the goal post. Maradona is supposed to have claimed that the goal measurements were wrong because according to his instincts and execution the ball should have gone through as a goal. When they measured the posts they found out he was right. I don’t know how far true that is but it is a perfect example of instinct and mental practice.

Some people like to psyche themselves by exhaling deeply, grunting and groaning, using self talk or trigger words like “push” or “yes” during training or competition.

This motivates and enhances them to execute some good moves. Mohammad Ali was also known to self talk a lot during bouts even asking an opponent as he landed a punch “what’s my name?” He is known as the master of gamesmanship.

Exercise attire can also put us in the right frame of mind for a workout. In the gym some people also prefer to wear tank tops and watch their muscle move. Some will put on torn clothes as this will make them feel rugged and ready for a rough workout.

Yet others like to wear military type of sportswear; this makes them feel militant and ready for a combative and aggressive workout. This also motivates them to push heavy weights. Some like to wear sweat bands and others prefer caps or woollen hats. And yet still others like to train in style; wearing trendy sports attire.

Trish Carmen is qualified to give us some advice on this one, but I think the attire, at times can reflect exactly the kind of mood one is in or what kind of person one is in general.

Wrestler Hulk Hogan would rip his T-shirt apart and then make a body-builders’ archer pose. This pose depicts either an archer fully stretching a bow and is about to release the arrow. I would like to think the implication could be that he is confirming and reassuring himself that he has the accuracy of an archer and the speed of an arrow.

Usain Bolt’s trademark victory pose is almost similar though not quite like it.

Personally, I preferred wearing full tracksuits. For me, attracting attention and being starred at during workouts was distracting, so did looking at the muscles move in the mirror. But even through the tracksuit I could watch and correct the movement. So this allowed me to focus on my training without distraction.

Music is another factor that helps in psyching one up. Listening to our favourite songs motivates us to do our best during training or prior to competition.

Most sportspersons always walk around with ear phones plugged in their ears especially as they go for training or matches. This psyches them up and helps to release pre match/competition tension as well as eliminate distractions and help them focus on the job at hand. Wrestlers like to make grand entrances with their trademark music playing in the background.

In sport these pre-performance routines can also take the form of war cries or rituals which can become superstitious behaviour. Take for example the Haka performed by the world rugby champions All Blacks of New Zealand.

Of late the Haka has become long and more like an aerobic session. So serious are the New Zealand rugby team about their ritual that they perform it with zeal and unparalleled enthusiasm.

One Yugoslavian tennis player Jena Dokic was known to always bounce the ball five times before making a serve. Usain Bolt, a devout Catholic, always does a holy cross sign before a race; he also showed serious respect for his national anthem when he stopped a reporter during an interview.

Lionel Messi also does a holy cross sign before the match, before a penalty kick and after a goal and so do many athletes.

The sight of our national flag and the sound of our national anthem reminds us of how lucky we are to represent our nation. It makes us appreciate this rare opportunity that is cherished by every sportsperson. It psyches us, and puts us in a patriotic mood, a sense of belonging that spurs us to perform to the best of our abilities, aware that we are doing it for our country.

Some times during the process of psyching ourselves up, we psyche our opponents out. Psyching out is the strategy or art of intimidating opponents mentally so that we have an upper hand. When the opposition gets nervous they are bound to make mistakes or even deviate from their plan. If the rivals show a defeated faces, this will spur us to finish them off.

One has to be very strong mentally as this can bounce back if the opposition is not scared and does not flinch. The fact that the opposition is not fazed, but rather they exude confidence, one is bound to think they must have an ace up their sleeve. They must have a secret that is why they are unnerved.

At the weigh in at the Derek Chisora versus Vitali Klitschko fight Derek slapped Vitali and as he entered the ring he spat water at his brother Wladimir; that could have been his own way of strengthening himself (his nerves) or psyching his opponent. He could have been releasing his pent up nervousness before the fight. Although he lost, he put up a spirited performance

The Haka has had opponents complaining about its intimidating nature. Opponents have devised ways to counter it; ignoring it or doing their own rituals raising their voices above the All Blacks.

In body-building circles I have heard of some athletes who like to chide their rivals by boasting that they are what they are because of the potent stuff they take. This type of psychological warfare or joke it is in bad taste because some young people are gullible and impressionable and they will take that seriously.

The nature of our sport allowed me to play the silent assassin type of psychological warfare or gamesmanship as it is called. I never verbally played psychological warfare. But I used to pretend I was not participating and the opposition would ignore me only to learn that I was in at the last minute.

This allowed me to have undisturbed preparation and focus on my workouts. The last minute announcement would unsettled some of the opposition to my advantage. So what puts you in the mood for a good workout? What spurs you on to perform to the maximum? Do not just perform those rituals absent minded let them be meaningful. But remember no amount of psyching out will replace passion, focus, practice and hard work.

I would like to congratulate Hellen da Costa Sinclair for winning the Sportsperson of the Year and for being the first body-builder to do so. Great achievement.

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