Did you know that learning how to relax before you perform can really improve your athletic performance?

I did some research on just how much relaxation techniques can help your performance on the field.

I also found out some pretty simple things you can do to help yourself calm down and relax on game day.

Ricky Williams participates in meditation and yoga, partly due to their relaxation benefits. (ICON Sports)

Related: The Truth About Mental Preparation for Football – With Dr. Rob Bell


Let’s get started.


Lesson #1 – Why Should You Apply Relaxation Techniques?

In Anxiety and Athletic Performance..., Arlin Cuncic, an expert in the clinical phychology field, says that relaxation techniques can

Tense muscles can affect your flexibility, which we know can impact your performance.

Related: Specific Stretches for Football that Can Give You an Advantage on the Field


It’s also been scientifically proven that tense muscles aren’t as strong as they are when they’re more flexible, so it’s really to your benefit to do what you can to relax before a big performance.

Tense muscles also retrict your range of motion.

Shallow breathing negatively impacts your athletic performance.


Other Benefits of Relaxing Before Competitions

After reading Benefits of Relaxation, I learned about four more benefits that I wasn’t aware of (or maybe just never thought much about):

1. More energy – Can you ever have too much energy in a game like football?

Related: POWER Football: How to Increase Energy Levels Naturally – Part One


2. Smoother emotions – It’s great to be able to get rowdy in a game like football.

But ultimately, if I had to choose between two players of the same athletic ability, one with the “wildman” mentality, and the other that  plays with controlled, channelled intensity, I’d choose the second player every time.

But that’s just me.

Related: Football and Yoga – Why More and More NFL Players Are Turning to Yoga – Part 1


3. Better problem-solving abilities – Sometimes you have to adjust on-the-fly when you’re out there on the field.

Your coach’s job is to do his best to prepare you, but you’re not always able to rely on a coach to coach you through the situation or circumstance.

The calmer and more relaxed you are, the better your abilities to solve problems will be.

Which improves your chances of having success out there on the battlefield.

4. Increased blood flow to muscles – when you increase the blood flow in your body, you’re maximizing the supply of nutrients and oxygen throughout your body.

The more oxygen you can get to your muscles, the better.


Lesson #2 – What Can You Do to Help You Relax?


Well there’s always visualization, but as Arlin explains in Anxiety and Athletic Performance…, the two most common techniques to help you relax are diaphragmatic breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.

Let’s take a quick look into these techniques.


Diaphragmatic Breathing

In Diaphragmatic Breathing, an article by the Cleveland Clinic, a good step-by-step explanation is provided (as well as illustrations to help you understand) to  step you through going through a diaphragmatic breathing exercise.


Progressive Muscle Relaxation

As the name eludes to, this technique involves slowly proceeding from one muscle group to the next, mindfully and intentionally relaxing them as you go along.

It’s designed to help you increase your ability to sense tenseness in your body, as well as provide you with a technique for resolving the tension, as well.

Do some Google searching on these topics so that you can add ’em to your arsenal of advantages over your competition.


Other Relaxation Techniques

There’s other techniques out there, too, like Breath Controlled Relaxation, and Mantra mediation.

Matter of fact, the Relaxation Techniques... article shows you how to do both mantra meditation as well.

The guy in this video takes you through an example of a progressive muscle relaxation session:


Lesson #3 – Focus on What You Can Control


I played at a small college, so there wasn’t a lot of media-driven pressure on me, but I do remember being tense sometimes during big games, or thinking about my family out in the crowd watching me, and wondering what they’re thinking or saying.

The smart thing to do, as difficult as it can be at times, is to focus on what you can control.

All you can control is your own performance, and making sure that you’re well prepared.

Worrying and thinking about things you can’t control is a waste of mental energy, and can’t really benefit you, so why do it?

Related: How to Gain Confidence in Football


Lesson #4 – Consider Getting Professional Help


I’ve found that our society has conditioned us to think that seeking professional help for mental concerns means that you’re crazy.

Being Black, I’ve found that this is really prevalent in the Black community for some reason.

I encourage you to consider seeking the help of a therapist.

Chances are that the visits might even be covered by you or your parent’s insurance.

Worst case scenario, you’ll have to pay a co-pay.

It might pay off for you in the long run.

In this form of relaxation, you’re closing your eyes and focusing on your breath, along with the rising and falling of your chest.

So I hope that one or two of the ideas I shared with you can help you relax a little bit better, and improve your performance on the field as a result.

Got any additional suggestions for relaxing before a game?  Leave a comment below.


Follow me on Twitter! @alvingrier

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Web References:

Anxiety and Athletic Performance: Strategies for Calming Game-Day Nerves (viasocialanxietydisorder.about.com)
Diaphragmatic Breathing (via cchs.net)
Benefits of Relaxation (via heartofhealing.net)


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