Your body hears everything your mind says

Jonathan offers some advice for ambitious competitors

I’ve learned that the most successful athletes in any discipline are the ones who have learned how to master their performance – and this involves far more than what happens on the water. They demonstrate professionalism, a real passion for detail, and leave ‘no stone unturned’ in pursuit of success.  They attend to all aspects of their off-water lives to ensure that they are physically and mentally on top of their game, ready to make the most of every training session and competition.

No matter where you are in your paddling career, here are three fundamental areas that will help you master your performance:

Act powerfully

In this wired world there are constant demands for attention.  It’s all too easy to get into a reactive, hyper-vigilant state of mind where we’re constantly waiting for the latest tweet or Facebook update. The upside is a sense of connection, but the downside is that young paddlers don’t spend enough time being fully present and paying attention to the task at hand. This means that they are often splitting attention and energy, talking to someone while checking the phone, or flicking to Facebook while completing an assignment.  So they don’t get much practice getting into an execution mind-set, which is the focused state of mind needed for competition.  This makes it harder to sustain concentration and energy during training and racing.

So develop your sense of discipline and focus.  Where’s your attention when you meet people? Are you fully present? How often are you checking your phone or email when you’re doing something else?

Relate well

While it’s essential to be strongly self-focused when competing, this doesn’t have to extend off the water as well. Young paddlers on the way up can often get a bit self-obsessed. At worst this comes across as arrogance, and it means that they don’t always get the help they need when they need it.  People generally like helping people they like.

So think about the people who help you: coaches, parents, training partners, physiotherapist, and sponsors…. When was the last time you said ‘thank you’ to appreciate their efforts?  When did you last ask how you could help them to help you?

Think straight.

There are no short cuts and achieving real mastery takes time and perseverance.  Paddlers who have yet to learn this are more likely to take un-necessary risks when they race.  With winning margins of hundredths of a second in slalom and sprint races there is certainly no place for hesitation, but at the same time it’s essential to learn where and when a high risk maneuver is worthwhile.   Sometimes the lower-risk move is no slower, just less showy.

Reflect on your own attitude to risk.  Do you make good decisions and balance out the risk and reward, or do you default to ‘going for broke’ regardless of the benefit? If so, what’s your motivation?

Act, relate and think are the three components that create outstanding performance when they are driven by mastery motivation – the desire to be the best you can be.  By paying attention to them off the water, you’ll soon see the benefits on the water too.  Race well!

A version of this first appeared on www.sportscene.tv

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