Sports Psychology for athletics - improve your track & field performance

Sports Psychologists have become more and more popular in track and field athletics over the last few years - helping athletes and teams to perform better, more consistently.

Get in touch to book your sports psychology consultation for your sport

- in London UK, by video call or telephone

Track and field athletics includes a fair few sports, each with different athletic demands on the body and psychological challenges. Let's pause for a moment and consider the range of sports:

  • The throwing sports: discus, hammer, javelin and shot put. There's a fair amount of similarity there across these events.

  • The jumping events: high jump, long jump, triple jump. They overlap quite a bit, in terms of psychological challenge.

  • The running events: 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 5km, 10km. These range from sub-10 seconds explosive all-out efforts, to more measured and strategic 30-minute affairs.

  • The running relay events: 4x100m, 4x400m. Racing as part of a team, the risks of messing-up the hand-overs etc bring additional psychological challenges.

  • Then there's the addition of hurdles: 100/110m, 400m. They are a mixture of running and technical hurdling over the barriers. Although, if we add in the steeplechase which is longer, with bigger hurdles and water jumps, then there is quite a different challenge, to the shorter hurdle races.

  • The throwing sports: discus, hammer, javelin and shot put. There's a fair amount of similarity there across these events.

  • The jumping events: high jump, long jump, triple jump. They overlap quite a bit, in terms of psychological challenge.

  • The multi-events: the heptathlon and decathlon. Doing 7 or 10 sports has it all, from a psychological challenge perspective!

When you consider that most athletic events have multiple rounds, of qualilifying or earlier rounds and finals or medalist group shoot-outs, there is more to contend with. The rounds mean that you have to manage warm-ups, performances (including strategy and how much to give of yourself), then cool-down, recovery, rest, eat, repeat...(unless you bomb-out at that stage).

It is likely that before your event, your mind goes into overdrive thinking about how you will do, how others will do... You will likely experience an increase in stress, anxiety and agitation. You have plenty of time to think. To think constructive thoughts. To focus on what is helpful. Or, to wind yourself up. Distracting yourself onto what is not going to help... You are always thinking. 

Having raced triathlons - and a fair few run races - for 20 years, including races at European and World level, I have plenty personal experience of managing my own athletic performances (and training sessions).

As a Sports Psychologist, I have helped numerous athletes over the years to better manage their mind, their events and their performances.

The best athletes have excellent physiology, which is well trained, which is combined with effective psychological skills to manage their life as an athlete, so they are able to execute their peak performance when it counts.

 

On this page, you will learn:

 

Read on, or get in touch with me to book your Sports Psychology consultation appointment - remotely by video call (Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp), telephone, or in London UK

Ten ways Sports Psychology can help your athletic performance

 

  1. Manage periods of poor form so you bounce-back to your best

  2. Manage pre-race tension and worry so you arrive at your event fresh, ready and keen to perform

  3. Focus on the elements that are key for your optimum performance, without getting distracted by irrelevant factors or what others are up to

  4. Develop routines for before your event and any down time, so you gain more control and consistency over your performances

  5. Better manage your emotions (stress, frustration, anger...) associated with competition

  6. Develop robust confidence in your ability, performance and bounce-back-ability following any setbacks

  7. Set effective goals for the year, month and next training session to shape your behaviour and focus, leading to faster improvement

  8. Become clear about why you compete, what motivates you, setting-up training and events to foster maximum motivation

  9. Develop effective imagery and visualise your performance, to better manage performances and increase confidence

  10. Cope with, manage and process injuries so they do not hold you back any longer than absolutely necessary

There are many other ways that sports psychology can help your athletic performances. I list these 10 ways to give you some ideas. Maybe within this list you are seeing some ways that I as a sports psychologist can help you. Get in touch, to find out how I can help.

 
 

Psychological solutions for your athletic performance

To give you a further idea of what sports psychology can do to help you as an athlete, I’ve listed some common problems below; along with some of the ways (but by no means all the ways) I solve them. Perhaps you will spot your difficulties in some of the descriptions.

Problem: You get yourself worked up into such a state before even minor events that you feel extremely nervous, sick and have the urge to leave.

Solution: After an individual assessment of the situations and your responses we can apply a tailored stress management programme to reduce your physical tension and psychological stress.

Problem: In your last competition you performed so badly that your confidence has taken a nose dive.

Solution: We can look at that competition in detail to understand what sense you’ve made of why it happened (including the build-up), and at the impact it has had on you. We then produce a progressive plan for you to get back on track, increase your confidence to its previous level (or above) and move on from the setback stronger.

Problem: Your performance has been inconsistent over a series of competitions. This has led to confusion about what you should be doing and thinking about before and during your event.

Solution: There are sports psychology techniques that we can apply to help you identify your effective pre-event and during the event routines – leading you to consistently great performances.

Problem: Your performance has reached a plateau and hasn’t improved for a while. Any goals you set remain unreached. 

Solution: Effective goal setting isn’t a simple, nor just a once a year activity. With help you can learn to set appropriate and achievable goals, set up training sessions so you are likely to reach them and conduct appropriate reviews of progress allowing your goals to be lowered or raised as appropriate. You will then be more likely to achieve them and perform better.

Problem: You get distracted at key times of your competition weekend, leading to a poorly executed event. 

Solution: We can work on techniques to improve concentration skills, identify the types of factors that distract you, and work on the key areas that will keep you focused when you need to. We will also identify the times when you don't need to be thinking about your event, to switch-off, to save your energy for when it is time to perform.

Problem: You’ve been competing for a number of years and it has all become a bit mundane and stale. Your motivation has gone. You wonder if you should be continuing.

Solution: We can review why you compete, why you got into your sport in the first place, and plan the year so it is more focused, fun (yes, it can be) and interesting. These and other techniques can help you to boost motivation and enjoy your training and competitions once again.

Get in touch, to find out how I can help.

 

Free Sports Psychology tips for athletes

Here are some quick sports psychology tips to help improve your athletic performance and to illustrate some of practical help I offer.

You will find tips for helping you to:

 

  1. Boost motivation

  2. Increase confidence

  3. Manage nerves

  4. Develop powerful imagery and visualisation skills

  5. Develop better concentration

1. Boost motivation for your event

A. List the factors which motivate you to compete in your sport.


It may also be useful to think about:

  • What do you gain from training/competing? (e.g., personal challenge, competitive outlet, etc.)

  • What do you want to achieve?

  • If you didn't train/compete what would you miss/lose?

  • Why did you take-up your event in the first place?

  • Why are you still involved in competing?

 

B. During training and competing, think about and observe what you like and do not like about what you are doing. Write these down.

2. Increase confidence

In the situations where you are lacking confidence, allow yourself to become more aware of the thoughts (i.e., self-talk) that goes through your mind.

 

Ask yourself:

 

  • Is this thought helping me?

  • Am I thinking accurately?

  • Can I see things in a more helpful and accurate way?

  • What would a more helpful thought be?

  • Can I express my thought in a way that includes what I want, not what I don’t want (e.g., “I can..” or “I will…” rather than “I won’t…” “Don’t…”)?

3. Manage event nerves

When you notice physical tension in the lead-up to a competition, try the following:

  1. Take a series of short inhalations, about one per second, until your chest is filled.

  2. Hold for 5 seconds.

  3. Then exhale slowly for 10 seconds while thinking to yourself the word relax (or calm or easy).

  4. Notice your body becoming more and more relaxed, as all the tension leaves your body.

  5. Repeat this process at least 5 times, each time striving to deepen the state of relaxation you are experiencing.

 

If this is a problem area for you, make sure that you get hold of my comprehensive Stress Management programme, available as an audio download. You can order straight-away. It is backed by a money-back guarantee.

 

4. Develop powerful imagery and visualisation skills

The following can help increase your ability to create and store powerful images to improve performance:

Part A: Imagine you are home in your living room. Look around and take in all the details. What do you see? How are the shapes and textures of any furniture and other objects in the room? What colour are the walls? Are there any pictures or paintings? If so, where are they and how do they look? If you are sitting, what does the chair feel like? What sounds do you hear? What is the temperature like? Is there any movement in the air? What do you smell? Use all your senses and take it all in.

Part B: Later when you are at home in your living room go to the place you had imagined in the exercise above. What do you see, smell, hear and feel? Do you notice details that you didn't call up when your imagined the scene?

Repeat A (and B again if you like) and see how your ability to generate detailed and vivid images improves.

 

5. Develop better concentration

 

Here's one of many tips for improving your focus: Develop cue words that trigger the correct focus when you need it.

 

How?

 

I'll assume for this example, that your event is a running event. First, list the key aspects of your running performance that you want to maintain. Next, write down the individual words or short phrases that capture the essence of such a perfect movement, level of relaxation or arousal, or perhaps what you want to be thinking or feeling. Here are some examples: "fast feet," "quiet feet," "smooth," "let's go," "relax" or "do it."

Test-out a word or phrase at each training session or competition, to see which one(s) evoke the best focus and help set up the movement and performance you want. Find a couple of these.

 

Next, identify something that will act as trigger for these words. For instance, you might place a mark on your running shoe, watch or kit bag. Then, when you see your trigger, this will trigger you to think the words that you know can help. Not only does this help your focus, it will boost your confidence too which will have a beneficial impact on your performance.

 

If you want more tailored help for any of these areas, in London, or wherever you are by a remote consultation, then get in touch. We can then organise Sports Psychology assessment and generate a plan to address your performance limiters.

 

Manage your competition nerves and stress

Here is some more detail on managing competition nerves - as they are so common and limiting.

 

Usually, pre-race tension builds in the hours and days before an important (to you) competition. Your mind, diet and sleep are all affected by your rising levels of stress.

Your frame of mind has a large bearing on how you perform and the outcome of your event (your position, enjoyment, misery...).

Your performance can be affected to a large extent by how stressed you are during the event (e.g., your race weekend). By stressed, I mean:

  • How much tension you hold in your muscles. Tension will impair your movements and biomechanics – causing you move less efficiently.

  • How much adrenaline is coursing through your veins: some is good, too much and this can put you out of your comfort zone, distracting you from your event strategy, as you wonder what the hell is going on with your body.

  • How helpful your thinking is: are you expecting things to go badly, to start poorly, to go behind, let yourself or others down, make a fool of yourself…? Lining yourself up for a self-fulfilling prophecy!

 

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If you wait for competition day to start managing your stress, you will almost certainly be too late to do anything productive about it - particularly if you have not developed robust stress management strategies to draw on. 

I have developed a Sport Stress Management Program it is available to download straight-away, to tackle your stress, anxiety, panic, tension…. The program is available to download straight-away. It addresses each of the three important areas:

  1. Physical tension (with not just one, but three proven physical relaxation techniques)

  2. Stress-related thinking

  3. Unhelpful stress-related behaviour (what you do or don’t do)

This program is based on the stress management courses that I researched, developed and taught within the NHS. It is based on what works. You can get this all for less than £20. It comes with a no quibble, 100% money-back guarantee. That is because I am confident that it will help you. Go ahead and order your stress solution today.

Alternatively, if you want more tailored help for any of these areas, in London, or wherever you are by a remote consultation, then get in touch. It would be great to hear from you.

Dr Victor Thompson

Clinical Sports Psychologist

Tel (UK): 07979 622537

help@sportspsychologist.com

© 2018 by Dr Victor Thompson