Relaxation Techniques have great importance for any athlete who is striving for peak performance.
When arousal levels become too high, performance is negatively affected, so for any athlete, relaxation is essential.
Relaxation techniques are used to:
Relax the mind and body to reduce stress and anxiety.
Increase sense of control so the athlete feels in control and comfortable.
Assist in mental preparation for competition
Assist people who experience high levels of tension and anxiety.
Any relaxation skill must be learned and practiced, as it may become automatic.
Some Techniques Include:
Progressive Muscular Relaxation.
This technique involves the progressive contraction and releasing of each major muscle group.
This helps to relax the athlete’s muscles so that tension or stress are not possible.
This technique relies on feelings of heaviness and warmth in the muscles given via self-suggestion.
Feelings of heaviness in the limbs helps to decrease muscle tension
Feelings of warmth help to dilate the blood vessels.
3 main parts:
Creation of feelings of warmth and heaviness
Use of imagery to conjure relaxing senses which is accompanied the feelings of warmth and heaviness
Use of specific themes to assist in causing relaxation (self statements that body is relaxed)
This technique involves the concentration on a word/phrase/image or movement.
It also includes the exclusion of interferences from the outside environment or thoughts that may cause stress.
Gives body time to relax and recuperate from stress pre/post of the event.
Effective under correct instruction.
This technique uses different instruments to measure changes in bodily functions such as heart rate, skin temperature, sweat production, muscular activity and brain waves.
The athlete is able to control these changes due to knowledge of their occurrence.
Athletes can use instruments in training to develop skills to control feelings of anxiety or arousal, as well as in an competitive environment.
Biofeedback can be very expensive.
This technique can be used to induce states of relaxation.
It is induced by a person whose suggestions are accepted by the subject (athlete)
It can help to control anxiety and improve or alter behavior.
Used on athletes to improve focus, motivation, confidence or to help control nervousness, tension or anxiety.
Similar to autogenic training and meditation.
This technique involves the performance of prescribed exercises or movements of an injured or weak body part which is submerged in cold or heated water.
Water buoys the athlete’s body minimizing gravity on their joints which enables easier stretching and movement.
As well as relaxing muscles, it also works the muscles due to the resistance of the water.
Reduces muscular tension and rehabilitates injuries.
Jets may be used which have the extra benefit of massage.
Range from baths to pools.
Includes ‘ Aqua-Aerobics’
Also known as Aquatic Physiotherapy.
Used on animals as well as humans.
This technique involves the manipulation of the soft tissues of the athlete by a therapist (stroking, gliding, compressing or stretching) which can be performed before or after event.
Helps to relieve muscle tension and increases flexibility.
The massage techniques used by the therapist are specific to the event.
Pre-event massages are an integral component of event preparation for many athletes. It helps to prepare the muscles and tissue of an athlete which increases performance. It is generally undergone 15-45minutes before the event.
Post-event massages are also practiced by many athletes. They help to aid in recovery from the activity. This is achieved through reducing exercise soreness, re-establishing full range or motion and enhancing blood flow to tightened muscles. It has been proven that post-event massage reduces the effect of delayed onset muscle soreness. This method speeds up the removal of metabolic by-products produced by the body and therefore aids for a quick recovery.
This technique places the athletes focus on the depth and pace of their breathing (rise and fall of chest)
Slow deep breaths are taken and the rib cage is expanded fully.
This helps to maintain ventilation in a controlled state while also restricting anxious or stressful thoughts.
Must be practiced regularly to be fully effective.
Focusing on the process rather than the result. Focusing on aspects that the athlete has control over or that they know and can do well.
The athlete practices the successful performance of a skill in their mind.
Generating relaxing thoughts.
Picture of the performance and the incorporation the experiences and emotions of surrounding factors.
Prepares the athlete for anticipated experiences so anxiety isn't generated by unfamiliar surroundings or experiences.
Other Methods of Relaxation include:
Positive Self-Talk- Promotes self-belief and ensures the athlete to be confident, making them believe they can successfully complete what is required.
Exercise- Light aerobic exercise prior or post the performance improves mood and reduces muscle tension.
Music- Type is specific to athlete. Needs to have calming effect so not to increase arousal.
Humor- Laughter has been scientifically proven to relieve tension.
Individuality- Some athletes prefer to be left alone prior to performance, others prefer to socialize.