Tight Mind Monday: Countdown To Competition, Pt. 6

TMM: Countdown To Competition, Pt. 6

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To complete our six-part Countdown to Competition series, I wanted to summarize what we've learned with four mental toughness tools that will help you compete your best. 

Look at each one, put it in place, and see how things change by your next competition!

1. Train with excellence and follow the 80/20 rule.

Be sure you are training with excellence and good habits every day. The more practice is like competition, the more competition will feel like practice. Aspire to hit your routines at least 80 percent of the time. When you are doubtful, your body tends to change technique, so an 80-percent hit rate will help your stay confident even under pressure. If you are not hitting 80 percent of the time, find the technical inconsistency and try to fix it by doing drills paired with key words.

2. Keep a consistent mind during your routines.

You’ve heard me say it before: the mind is like a little monkey and needs to be trained to behave consistently everyday. Train your monkey mind by using key words, counting, or focus on feeling the element during every routine you do. A consistent mind leads to a consistent body. Lock your mind down every routine.

3. Achieve consistent emotional control before the routine.

Get into your competition bubble before every routine. Visualize yourself at the meet waiting for the salute. Then breathe in confidence, say a cue phrase like "just another routine," and have the face and body language as if you are about to perform the routine of your life. Remember to do this before every routine in practice so that your body fires the same neural chemicals in competition.

4. If you are doing the three mental skills above and still don’t feel good on the competition floor, you might be putting too much pressure on yourself. 

It’s important to get out of worry and into things you can control — like doing your best, going all out, having fun, and showing off your routines. I call these "controllables" or your MITs (most important things). These are the things that really matter at the end of the day. Feel proud of yourself for doing your MITs no matter what place you finish on the award stand.

Practice these four tools every day in the gym, and then take them as your secret weapons into competition. You work too hard every day not to rock it when it counts!


Alison Arnold, Ph.D. has been a peak performance consultant to USA Gymnastics since 1997. For more information on Doc Ali and her work, go to www.headgameswebcamp.com or www.headgamesworld.com.