Showing posts from January, 2018

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation, or PMR, is a mental exercise meant to increase your awareness of muscle tightness and increase your ability to relax your muscles. Many people suffer from chronic muscle tightness. Without being aware of it, many people keep their neck, shoulders, abdomen, lower back, or legs tensed without needing to. This bad habit is partially caused by high stress levels. When you are stressed, your body tends to tighten up. This can lead to pain in your back and other areas. This unnecessary muscle tension can be fixed from both reducing stress and practicing PMR. But how is this relevant to sports? Muscle relaxation helps performance while stress-caused muscle tension hurts performance. You usually execute your best shots and throws when your body is relaxed, and only the necessary muscles are used. When this happens, it feels like the energy just flows right through you, allowing you to hit or throw with power and accuracy. However, when your body is overly t


Meditation is another popular mental exercise among athletes.  There have been many studies about the health benefits of meditation. Likewise, there are many books about how meditation relates to spirituality and happiness. However, I just want to talk about meditation and how it relates to sports. First of all, your sports performance can be indirectly improved by the physical and mental health benefits of meditation. Lowered anxiety and lowered blood pressure are beneficial to everyone. A healthier human is a better athlete. In a more direct way, meditation helps athletes by being an arousal-controlling pre-game routine. To try to get their body and mind right for a game, many athletes meditate as a pre-game ritual. This clears their mind, relaxes their body, and eases their nerves so they can better enter "the zone" before a game. Secondly, a big part of peak performance is concentration. To perform you best under the most pressured situations, you need to contro

Imagery (Visualization)

Imagery, also known as visualization, is one of the most popular mental exercises. Imagery is generating mental images (usually with your eyes closed) to simulate desired behavior. There are many kinds of visualizations with different purposes. Scientifically, there are reasons why imagery can be beneficial.  As you visualize yourself executing certain body movements, your subconscious mind actually thinks you are moving in real life. Think about nightmares as an example. You are just visualizing, but your heart rate rises as if it were real life. If you visualize well enough, the neurons in your brain are being fired in a similar way to when you are actually practicing. Imagery is basically mental reps. Studies have shown that basketball players who visualize themselves shooting free throws improve their free throw percentage at a faster rate than those who do not practice imagery. Imagery is very useful when learning new skills. To help learn a new swinging technique, you can visu

Mental Exercises and Sport Psychology Training

My past posts have mainly been about attitudes and performance tips, but this kind of teaching is only one half of what sport psychology has to offer. The second half of sport psychology deals with what I call "mental exercises." Like physical exercises, these are activities that are meant to improve specific skills. Whereas an exercise such as the bench press strengthens the chest, mental exercises strengthen skills such as motivation, confidence, and arousal control. And just like physical exercises, the more you do mental exercises, the better you'll be at them. Throughout the next couple months, I will be writing about several different kinds of mental exercises, such as imagery (visualization), meditation, and goal-setting. But today, I just want to overview mental exercises in general and explain their importance. Sport psychology has become more popular throughout the last decade. Almost every professional team hires some sort of sport psychologist. However, sp