Forget about your competition. If you want to gain an edge over your rivals in your next race or game, get yourself up on your feet first. Pressure training, a mental technique that simulates the stresses of a high-profile competition while exercising, is the newest tool coaches use to prepare athletes for battle. And for good reason: Research in the journal Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology found that when nearly 300 athletes did some form of pressure training prior to a competition, “they consistently outperformed their peers who did not exercise under pressure,” says Co-author of the study Billy Low.
How pressure training works varies from situation to situation – a trainer can set up a ranking in the locker room, on which everyone’s training times are visible to others. Another athlete could post daily weightlifting goals on their Instagram account and then force themselves to report the results that evening. The Goal: Get used to training in an environment that mimics competitive pressures over and over again until you are immune to matchday fear.
“In my opinion, coaches should introduce pressure training months, not days, before a race,” says Low. “Athletes need time to learn skills for dealing with pressure – and then practice them.”
To really maximize results, he tries to use performance-enhancing tools like visualization and positive self-talk while doing pressure training at the same time. “If athletes always train in light conditions, they don’t have to use these techniques to get through the workout,” says Low. “Then when they come under pressure in competition, they have difficulty refocusing or staying positive because they haven’t made these techniques a habit.” So go on, let’s go and give us 40. Yes, we’ll watch .
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