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How Olympic Athletes Manage Pressure

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Maybe you have a crucial presentation you’re preparing to give at work or maybe you’re a new mother trying to juggle work and family life. The bottom line is that no one is immune to the pressure of having to perform the roles that color our identity.

michael phelpsAs I sat on my living room couch this past Saturday evening and watched Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps prepare for the 400 IM race, I wondered what it would be like to perform under such intense pressure, especially having a good chunk of the world watching you. Then I realized that I couldn’t come distantly close to knowing what that reality feels like and truth be told, I never want to find out.

I don’t know what Michael Phelps’ secret is for handling that immense pressure, but for track and field U.S. Olympian, Kara Goucher of Portland, Oregon, she relies on visualization as a way to calm her nerves and enhance her performance.

“On hard days, I picture myself crossing the finishing line and being elated. You have no idea how many times I have already ’won’ the gold,” says Goucher.kara goucher

For Goucher, her use of visualization is a powerful imagery technique that anyone from world-class athletes to your co-worker have relied on to improve their mental awareness and their competitive edge. Research has shown that the repetitious practice of visualization trains the body and mind just as similarly as the action of physically practicing a given move. This is truly powerful stuff!

So the next time you’re stressed about an upcoming performance that you need to excel in, try a few rounds of guided imagery. Here is a quick five-step guide on what to do:
1) Sit in a comfortable position away from any distractions or interruptions

2) Relax your body and take five deep inhales and exhales.

3) Close your eyes and envision your ideal scenario. Don’t leave out any details. Imagine the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of this positive experience.

4) If your mind wanders to a negative image or thought, bring your attention back to your breath and replace the image with a positive one.

5) Always end your visualization practice with a positive image.

Kara Goucher comments are provided by Self Magazine.

August 13th, 2008

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