The “ZONE”: What is it and how to get there (Part 1)

Afternoon everyone!
I was debating on topics to write about for todays blog post, Nutrition, programme design, the “crossfit debate”, and I realised that a lot of areas like this are done to death sometimes.
And then two things happened:
1) I trained, and it felt awesome.
2) I realised that the music in my gym was so much better than the commercial gym I was based in not so long ago.

It occurred to me that number 1 could very well have been a result of number 2. I felt in “the Zone”.
So, what is this Zone?
You will, at some point in your training/career, have had a day when everything seemed to flow, you were able to handle anything and you felt awesome. Chances are, you were in your zone. You were completely immersed in your activity and nothing else mattered.
There was a perfect match between the perceived demands of the activity, and the perceived ability to meet the demands.
Basically, you believed in yourself and you nailed it.

Lets get technical for a moment:
The full title of what we are discussing is the “zone of optimal functioning” and there are many variables which contribute to it: nutrition, coach input, sleep, training, relationship status and many others. When all these things align you could have the “perfect game” or your best ever training session. Its all to do with arousal levels. Your arousal levels exist on a continuum between deep sleep and panic (red mist), as illustrated in the handy chart below…
arousal

As you can see, the optimal arousal level for performance lies between the two extreme states, so getting yourself motivated and fired up is good, but be wary of getting too fired up… the graph shows a sharp drop off in performance when an individuals arousal levels are too high, known as the catastrophe model. If this occurs, relax, regroup, and start again!

Of course, everyones peak area will be different, some people will perform better in a slightly more relaxed state, some will need to feel that bit more aggressive. Its important to discover and realize where your zone truly lies, and there are various methods you can use to find it.

Psyching up
• Mental Imagery – Use mental images/memories of previous good performances/sessions. This will allow the body and mind to remember what state it was in, and will increase the likelihood of repeating the circumstances.
• Music – We shall discuss this momentarily…
• Positive Self Talk – as discussed in one of my previous blogs
• Physical Contact – Best illustrated as a team huddle pre game, but it can be a slap on the back pre squat, anything that gets you fired up!

Psyching Down• Breathing Exercises – These can be effective when it comes to lowering the heart rate and focusing the mind.
• Stretching – yes, elongation of the muscles happens but this method also enables the athlete to regain control of their body.
• Relaxing Self Talk – Similar to the factors influencing positive self talk. This will be different for each individual, but it often helps with focus and clarity.
Hopefully this will help you gain a bit more clarity into the importance of the mental aspect of your performance.

In part 2, we will explain how the use of music can help you achieve peak performance. Better go charge my Ipod…

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