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How to perform under pressure

How to perform under pressure

Have you ever succumbed to pressure after setting yourself a big task, or being involved in a challenging sporting event?

If the answer is yes, you are not alone.

We all struggle under pressure from time to time whether in sport, business or life. Even the world’s best sportspeople have wilted in a pressure environment. Every elite athlete has stories of failure under pressure.

While pressure is nothing new, if we don’t address it there’s a chance it will get the better of us.

How can we better perform under pressure or in a difficult situation? Consider the following four steps:

  1. List the action steps required to overcome the problem: Every challenge can be broken down into steps, which takes emotion out of the equation. You are more likely to see a big task reduced to smaller, achievable lots. This makes you more balanced and calm.
  2. Be in the moment: We are most powerful in the present moment – elite athletes know this, and it’s something they work hard on. A trick to being in the moment is noticing our five senses, thoughts, and emotions – this brings you back to the present.
  3. Execute each action step that has been listed: Some steps may seem elementary, but by executing each one you give over to process and remove emotion.
  4. Be prepared to start again: This is something elite sportspeople are good at. When you are prepared to start again then you have considered the worst-case scenario. Once you have dealt with the worst-case scenario and accept you can start again if it all goes wrong, you are less paralysed by fear of failure.

High achievers such as elite athletes practice these pressure steps over and over. The more you commit to it, the better you get.

Beneficial by-products from this practice include patience, calmness, and your leading the way through the path of least resistance.

If you’re interested in more information about what happens to the mind and body during pressure situations then you might enjoy this great article from psychotherapist Amy Morin.

Dr Google – friend or foe?

Dr Google – friend or foe?

The Internet is positive for people wanting to take more interest in their health. Who hasn’t dropped in on “Dr Google” to search a health complaint? The improved access to health professionals – especially the ability to reach remote locations – is fantastic.

There is some great physio information available via Dr Google: people can now access quality information on exercise, stretching, technique, recovery, and injury prevention very easily. At Elite Akademy we’ve had fantastic responses to health and fitness issues via our blog, Facebook and YouTube channel. If this helps people then it’s a huge positive.

But is there a downside to Dr Google?

The biggest downside is potential for misdiagnosis. A wrong diagnosis carries several risks – at the very least it may mean you are living with pain or discomfort for longer than necessary.

Sometimes information isn’t enough – you need a qualified expert who has thousands of treatments under their belt. Disciplines such as physiotherapy require hands-on treatment for accurate diagnosis.

Many ailments, such as back pain, result from problems elsewhere in the body. For example, you may have a pain in your back but the cause may be a problem with your knee. We see and deal with these issues daily – we have seen people who have hobbled into our clinic due to calf pain, barely able to move, and had them walking out later after we have found and treated the true issue in their back. Without proper hands-on evaluation, the potential for misdiagnosis is huge.

The other, dark side to Dr Google, is leading people to the worst-case scenarios, creating untold stress and panic. For example, people may think their back pain is sciatica, or a stress fracture, when it may be much simpler; or they may think a headache is a brain tumour because Dr Google told them so!

Even if Dr Google makes sense regarding your ailment, it’s important not to jump to conclusions. People must remember that accessing the information is one thing, making clear sense of it requires professional evaluation.

Five mental secrets to great exercise

Seven exercise recovery secrets everyone should know

Most focus in training is on performance and technique – how to get bigger, faster, stronger, better. Yet these goals cannot be reached without proper recovery.

Nobody comes into work bragging about how they “smashed their recovery this week”, but recovering properly from exercise allows your body to heal from intense training sessions – key to reaching new heights.

Recovery is one way elite athletes separate themselves from the rest of us. The personal bests generate headlines, but elite athletes know they can only keep pushing when they recover properly. The body has a great capacity to heal, and they need to fast-track that healing so they feel better and ready to go again quickly. They take it incredibly seriously to the point of being obsessive.

While we need not be so obsessive, anybody wanting to improve their health, fitness and performance can benefit from thorough recovery – the best way to fast-track your recovery is to follow these seven key points:

  1. Proper hydration: It’s difficult to perform well or recover if you are dehydrated. We are 70% fluid, so we need to put in what gets used. A simple way to know your hydration level before and after exercise is to notice the colour of your urine – a straw or clear colour signals you are fine. A darker yellow colour says you are dehydrated.

Athletes are so concerned about their hydration levels that the weigh themselves before and after games – any deficit is made up of drinking water after the games.

Unfortunately, many of us smash the beers, sugary soft drinks, or caffeine-packed energy drinks after training, which all reduce hydration.

  1. Ditch the energy drinks & only consume sports drinks with exercise: Simple rule – energy drinks are not going to help recovery. The high concentrations of caffeine give you a short-term boost but may dehydrate you, and does nothing to help your body recover. Excess consumption may also be dangerous to the heart.

Sports drinks provide better hydration because they contain sodium and magnesium that is lost in sweating, so are ideal during or after exercise. But only take when exercising, not as a social drink.

  1. Never underestimate good sleep: Sleep is nature’s way of helping our body and mind to recover. This time off is very important, yet many people under under-estimate its healing properties. Athletes know that sleep is so critical for their performance that they keep a sleep diary.

Yet there are signs our quality of sleep is deteriorating: The Sleep Health Foundation has found between 33 and 45 per cent of Australians have poor sleep patterns. Improvements in this one area can make a huge difference.

  1. Compression garments: Exercise often creates fluid build-up in muscle tissue due to microtrauma. Compression garments help prevent this pooling by providing a mild amount of pressure to the muscles. Compression is particularly ideal for the legs since gravity will pool the fluid down to the ankles, creating a “dead end”, and compression helps prevent this. Sleeping in compression garments may help minimise swelling overnight.
  2. Hydrotherapy: Hydrotherapy has been around since Ancient Egyptian times, around 5000 years ago, and can be as simple as having a bath. Bathing in warm water relieves tired muscles, joints, and ligaments. Buoyancy decreases the weight of the body and aids recovery through circulation.

Bathing in the sea is also therapeutic and the salt water has many healing qualities.

  1. Hot/cold contrast baths: You’ll never hear an athlete say they like hot and cold contrast baths – which may include ice baths – but they’ve been shown to be highly effective, and many athletes do this after exercise.

If you’re game you can replicate this in your shower – 30 seconds’ warm water and 30 seconds’ cold, repeat 4-6 times. If you’re lucky enough to be near hot springs or mineral spas then you may wade in the warm pool and then go into the plunge pool – alternating accordingly. The hot and cold helps our neural system and aids recovery.

  1. Massage/Physiotherapy: Hands on treatment including massage is one of the fastest ways to recover. Elite athletes use massage on a regular basis. But for the rest of us, a massage weekly or fortnightly will make a positive impact if we are very active – for most of us even a monthly massage will make a difference, but if you are training for a big event or trying hard to improve you may need more.

Physiotherapy is crucial to maintain your body and performance, and address injuries or tightness. How to choose the correct therapist for you? Make sure you are seeing results in three sessions or less. It means they are on track. If not, get a second opinion.