1. Leading up to a big competition, athletes reduce their training to give their body time to rest and adapt - this is known as tapering.
2. Athletes and coaches optimize the timing of their taper so on the day of the big competition, they’re ready to perform better than they ever have before. However, only about 20% of Olympians achieve a lifetime best performance at the Games. Why is that?
3. There is one factor that, above all others, determines if an athlete will improve their performance during taper - stress. If you can learn to decrease stress during taper, you will hopefully be one of the few athletes who is able to reach their potential on the big day.
Three Tips to reducing stress and having a great taper
1. Sleep. Prioritize sleep leading up to a competition. Make sure you’re getting 8-10 hours each night and during your taper and during competition try to add a 20- or 90-minute nap during the day (remember the importance of the length of your nap).
2. Progressive Relaxation. This is a relaxation technique to decrease muscle tension and stress. Instructions on how to do this are below.
3. More Energy, Less Tension. When preparing for a big event, learn to work “better”, not “harder”. By practicing relaxation techniques such as progressive relaxation, you can learn to work efficiently during training.
Today’s Exercise: Progressive Relaxation
Progressive relaxation consists of alternately tensing and releasing different muscle groups. Hold each muscle contraction for 3-5 seconds and each relaxation phase for 10-15 seconds.
Lean back in a chair or lie down.
Close your eyes. Raise your toes as high as possible, hold, then release and let the tension go into the floor. Point the toes and repeat.
Tense the upper part of your legs. Experience the tension. Hold then relax, feeling your legs against the chair and your feet against the floor. Experience the relaxation.
Tighten your stomach muscles . . . then relax. Take a deep breath, feeling the tension in your chest. Exhale and relax. Concentrate on how calm you can get.
Make tight fists with your hands and hold for about 5 seconds. Unclench your hands and let the tension flow out, noting how it feels different to relax.
Do the same with your upper arms, then your neck. Frown, and then relax. Take a moment to notice any other areas of tension and concentrate on releasing those as well.
Take a few deep breaths and open your eyes – you will be totally alert and relaxed!
If you prefer to be taken through this exercise with an audio guide, check out the “Progressive Relaxation” episode of Meditation Station by Stin Hansen.
The information and advice provided in this program is intended to assist you with improving your performance, as well as your general health. It is intended to compliment your training plan and not instead of guidance from your coach. It should also not be used in place of advice from a doctor or for treatment or diagnosis of any specific health issue. By participating in this program you assume any risks, and that you release Impactic Sport from any responsibility or claim relating to such participation.