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Psyching yourself up for a challenge

Psyching yourself up for a challenge


By Katherine Webb

Many people try to ‘psych up’ before a race or a big game. But does it make any difference? And is there a best way of doing it?

Researchers in Tunisia decided to find out. They used two well-known methods of psyching up.  Firstly, imagery - visualizing yourself performing. Next, arousal – getting yourself as excited as possible before the race.

Sixteen experienced male sprinters took part in the study. Each were coached in one of the psyching up techniques, or taught distraction techniques, before running 10 or 30 metres.

The results showed that psyching yourself up does appear to improve performance. Fourteen of the athletes reduced their sprint time when using mental imagery. Arousal also worked to reduce sprint time, particularly for 10 metres, however visualization was more effective and also reduced sprint time over 30 meters. It would seem then that visualisation is the best method to psych yourself up.  

Visualisation is definitely worth trying to boost performance. If you practice regularly you’ll also help conquer those pre-race nerves, negative thoughts and feel more in control. Consider it part of your warm-up routine until it’s automatic.

Getting psyched up is about getting mentally ready. But sometimes our brains need some external motivation to really get going. If you need help psyching yourself up for the gym, a run, a heavy lift, or your next football match, give these a try:

  • Music. Getting pumped up through motivating tunes is a great way to enhance your mood and distract you from nerves. It might be songs with a strong beat, or something personal which inspires you on a deeper level. Or if you want to take the scientific route, pump up the bass – research has found that a heavier bass line will leave you feeling more powerful than a treble-heavy melody.
  • Movies. Watching an inspiring film such as Rocky, or Chariots of Fire might be worth a try! Or even a motivational video on YouTube.
  • Focus on your goals. Remind yourself of why you are racing in the first place. Is it to raise money for charity? To shed some more fat? Either way, keep the end target in mind.    

How do you psych up before a challenge? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to put your new-found visualisation techniques to use next time you visit the gym.