“Energy is equal to desire and purpose.”
At first glance, relaxation and intensity seem to be two contradicting terms. It is rare to be in an atmosphere that is tense, yet relaxed, or to describe a conversation that is intense, but relaxing at the same time. However, the two concepts go hand in hand when it comes to athletics.
The mental and emotional focus it takes to play your best is oftentimes overlooked when it comes to sports. A crowd will go wild for a slam-dunk, a Hail Mary touchdown pass, or a grand slam, focusing on the great physical strength it takes to make that happen. While this talent should be praised, it is important to remember the components we can’t see. Relaxation and intensity are crucial to high athletic performance, and true athletes have to be able to find the perfect balance.
Great athletic performances occur when an athlete feels loose and relaxed, yet giving all of him or herself physically. This is not an easy balance to find, and it takes time and patience to perfect it.
In order to find your perfect balance, you must learn how your body relaxes and intensifies. When you practice each concept individually, you can bring them together on the field to witness progress and success.
First, you must learn to relax. Forced relaxation can lead to stress if not introduced in the proper way. To start, breathing is the key. When you empty your mind of the “task” at hand, you can relax, be calm, let go, and get loose. Remember that there is more than one way to relax. Everyone finds relaxation in his or her own way, so listen to your body and figure out what works best for you.
When you practice effective relaxation, remember these two characteristics:
- Physiological Response: The first step of relaxation is physical. The heart rate and breathing slow down, muscles loosen, and calmness presents itself.
- Psychological Response: The second step is mental. Thoughts move from fear, failure, and worry to thoughts of relaxation and total control.
Second, you must maintain intensity. Once your mind is in focus, you can maintain optimal intensity and focus for the entire performance. Oftentimes, athletes forget to maintain intensity through every practice and every game. This is a bad habit. Great intensity should be a constant effort, because mental preparation needs just as much attention as physical preparation.
There are two important parts to maintaining intensity:
- Preparing For game day. Training your mind and preparing for the task at hand is crucial to maintaining a high level of focus. When your mind is in the right place during practice plays, it will be in the right place during kickoff.
- Game day. What you do on game day is a choice. No matter how much practice you put in, your competition will tempt you to slack and give up. When fatigue sets in, think of how much you’ve invested and think of the people relying on you.
Great performers simply decide to go out and play with full intensity. They make a commitment to relax and rest well so that they have the energy to play with high intensity for the entire game.
In the wise words of Sheryl Adams, “Energy is equal to desire and purpose.” The balance you find mentally and physically will prepare you for tough physical and mental exertion. No matter if its practice or the championship game, you must make the commitment to breathe, relax, and maintain focus.