Posts Tagged ‘peak performance’

Athletes Returning From Injury… and other Monsters In The Closet

Saturday, July 30th, 2011


Working with athletes returning from injury over the years has taught me a few things…

These athletes, at the end of their tether and contemplating throwing in the towel over their fears when returning from injury, been told by others to toughen up or get a grip. But when you are the one on the inside looking out this fear is real; holds a huge amount of emotional weight; and can dominate every waking hour.

If we believe in the notion that we don’t do anything in life unless it holds some value for us – then why do we let our imagination push our buttons and punish us with crippling and apparent uncontrollable fear when there is no logical need for it?

Take an athlete recovering from an injury: if there is no technical or mechanical reason to fear the sport or even the move again, why do so many athletes buckle with fear when getting back into the game?

Statistically speaking, we know these highly successful athletes are crippled by something that will probably never happen to them!

So why do they do it to themselves? Why do these athletes allow what they intellectually know as bogus appear so real.

And how do we, as Mind Coaches, manage this behavioural anomaly pragmatically?

Our true fear mechanism is all part of our vital and finely tuned fight or flight process. This innate, subconscious reaction emanates from our limbic system in our brain and protects us in extreme or life threatening situations.

So for this reason, we don’t want to tamper with this fight or flight process too often. However, if we think of it more like a brain surgeon, we can sort through the many different sections and stimulants of the brain and switch on or off a desired or undesired response.

Your first awareness of an irrational fear probably manifested itself in the same way it did for most of us: the monster in the closet and the ghosts under the bed! Over the years, we now know there is no such thing as monsters in the closet and ghosts hiding under your bed!!

But, as a kid it wouldn’t have mattered how many times you were shown the empty closet or rationalised that there is nothing under your bed other than old socks, broken toys and plenty of dust – you would have still had that irrational fear in the back of your mind convincing you that it is all too real and to believe otherwise was either naive or a mistake.

Your imagination would have been the major contributor to support and feed the monster – the emotional monster that is, not the actual monster.

So a coach telling an athlete to get on with it or suck it up would have the same amount of success as telling the child the closet is empty.

We often think, construct and imagine the worst case scenario when faced with decisions in life. This helps us to manage the full spectrum of scenarios IF they do in fact eventuate. However we know that once we have thought something it is impossible to UN-think it! So it suddenly becomes a legitimate option in our brains, something that could occur, that maybe has, until now, been completely off the radar.

So now that this worst case senario is very much ON the radar, how do we stop our over-active imagination eating away at our performance, our effectiveness and even our sanity?


1.  The Root Cause

Establish what was the catalyst to the fear. Was it a past incident, a past observation or something concocted in our over active minds. There would have been a start point, a stage where the irrationality started. Even the concocted option would have it’s roots in something tangible.

2.  Smother that cause in logic
Take the emotion out of the cause and replace it with logic. Desensitise it’s effects and break it down into so many components that for all those ducks to be in a row again would be so unlikely it would almost be impossible.


Establish why it initially occurred in detail, so as to build structure around it, preventing it happening for a second time.

Just the pragmatic process of establishing a plan will instantly reduce the emotional weight of the imagined option, but to completely sideswipe this unproductive emotional thought – we replace it. We replace it with something desirable and with just as much emotional weight. This can be achieved through active strategy structuring and with targeted hypnosis.

If you think about how we ‘beat’ the monster in the closet or the ghost under the bed – it was either by growing up and thinking logically there is no such thing nor could there be, or we employed our own bigger, meaner monster to overpower the weak closet monster!

Whichever option works for you – employ it!!

I’m An Addict: Happy Drugs to Create Kick-Ass Confidence in Your Sport

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011


“Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.”
~ Vince Lombardi

Confidence in both the coach and athletes is a hot topic, something associated with both our success and our downfalls. Our confidence is something that needs to be managed just as pragmatically as we manage our physical fitness and diet.

Some coaches and athletes however view the psychology of confidence as a taboo subject, thinking if they don’t talk about it, mention the word ‘confidence’ let alone prepare and nurture it then it won’t break!

Confidence is not a fragile entity to be tip-toed around – it is a system, a replicable system of specific neurological triggers and chemical stimulants in our bodies. It deserves our full attention!


In most cases, I have found confidence issues are a lack of  — or a stalling of — positive forward momentum.


What I mean by this is – our confidence and motivation is fuelled by consistent injections of success, each and every time we succeed at something – no matter how small – we are neurologically rewarded for our trouble.

We are rewarded with generous doses of serotonin and dopamine – this concoction of naturally derived happy drugs are supplied by our own bodies as a recognition of achievement.

Serotonin and Dopamine (like many other natural chemicals) are highly stimulating and exceptionally addictive. Our brain likes this reward system and wants more and more of it, so urges us forward to the next success and reward point – eagerly waiting for the next big hit.

Whilst it is our subconscious brains that have a higher understanding of what we are actually capable of – it is our conscious filtration system that normally ‘plays safe’ and pulls us back into a conservative line.

This natural high feeds our confidence, and sometimes fools our conscious mind into thinking we could, and should, take on more and more challenging tasks to gain the higher reward.

Many top athletes speak of being caught up in the moment, feeling un-stoppable and almost superhuman when at their peak. The reward driven highs becoming ‘the norm’ and a constant flooding of neural stimulants keeps them there.

(This is also part of the reason why retiring athletes struggle to maintain the stimulation in their after sport life – but that is a whole other topic  we will cover in another post!)

Where the wheels fall off this gravy train is if we STOP or lose this positive forward momentum of natural rewards.

If we stop acknowledging our successes, we begin to suffer withdrawal from our happy drugs – like a drug addict without the next fix this begins to reinforce our subconscious doubts over our ability to ever again ‘score’ or succeed and be rewarded. The next logical steps elude us, we lose direction, focus and perspective.

The longer the period of time where our reward cravings are not met the bigger the desire is to have that ‘hit’ and the more important that next success becomes. All this does is increase our anxiety levels and feeds the emotional monster.

These gorged emotions cloud our skill-set, our cognitive clarity and our perception on our ability to succeed.

And so a perpetual cycle of failure is born.

Breaking this slippery downward cycle and restoring forward upward momentum is just as systematic a process as the creation of the problem in the first place.

After all, our confidence is fuelled by our success, acknowledgment and our neural-reward!

And as this feeds the motivation engine, the strategy is simple:

1. Start setting small achievable goals, acknowledging them along the way.

2. Reward yourself again and again – it gains traction in the motivation game, like stoking the fire of a steam engine the more fuel you put in the better the results that come out.

And so, instead of feeding a perpetual cycle of failure, we are maintaining a perpetual cycle of success.


Using Your Most Innate Skill to Deliver Peak Performance

Monday, May 16th, 2011


Delivering Powerful Presentations is a Breathe…


No, that’s not a lisp. We all breathe, right?

If you, like me, are a professional speaker, maybe you are a coach, a coaches coach, a teacher, lecturer, trainer, DJ or someone who just communicates for a living then you will know it is as much about the delivery of content as it is about the content itself.

When getting your message across the aim is to get key information in to the minds of our audience in an efficient manner and get it to stick.

Received, retained and recalled when required.

I would like to share with you some my favourite techniques for training and conditioning yourself to speak more effectively and in a clear and controlled manner – every time.


It’s all in the breath.


I was once told by a professional voiceover for the BBC that a quality delivery is all about controlling your breathing and breath delivery in every situation and in every context.

Let’s face it, no one wants to hear a speaker who sounds like a Puffing Billy steam train, huffing and puffing up a hill as they deliver their content – nor do we want to listen to Speedy Gonzales, Monotone Mike or Wobbly Wilma. It detracts from the content and the experience.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where the quality of a speaker’s delivery has not met your expectations and found yourself disengaging from their message? Intellectually, your brain is reluctantly clinging to the vocal thread, grasping to weave the pieces together into something meaningful… but emotionally it’s meandering downwards into ‘sleep mode’. As recipients of information, our five senses have high expectations and if they are not met, we tend to simply shut off and mentally ‘sit it out’ for the duration.

So controlled breathing is paramount when making sure the recipients of your information are engaged and able to receive, retain and recall your message right through to the end.


Changing this Habit of a Lifetime Provides 4 Major Benefits.

An exercise I practise frequently is reciting my lecture or keynote speech whilst I am exercising. I do this often whilst running through 12km of punishing sand hills – if you are not that sadistic – any kind of physical exertion will do the job.

Practise these 4 simple techniques to improve your voice control and ensure your presentations pack a powerful punch:

1. When you physically push your body to it’s limits and utilise all available oxygen, train yourself to deliver your content as clearly and concisely as possible. Be very conscious of your oxygen intake, distribution and controlled exhale. This will train you to think hard about timing, clarity and the delivery and control of word annunciation.

2. A secondary benefit to this sort of physical activity is that our cognitive filtration system is otherwise engaged and therefore partly disengaged from the incoming information. It pays less attention to the relevance of content, choosing not to spend as much time filtering it. This means less emotional attachment to the content and to the event (delivery). So if you are a nervous speaker or highly emotional speaker then having less emotional attachment will lower the anxiety levels and enable you to deliver clear, concise ‘content’ rather than a mumble or jumble.

We simulate a similar technique with athletes who wish to overcome a situation or play they are anxious about using the Smart Mind Institute™ Bounce and GridBall Exercises – very effective at removing any negative emotion from their game.

3. Another key benefit to less filtration of the information you are reciting is it allows better imprinting of key information into our memory, as well as increasing rhythmical patterning to the information, which increases accuracy of recall.

4. The fourth benefit is the physical increase in oxygen required to speak and exercise, so this over time increases your overall cardiovascular fitness.

If you don’t have a current training programme, lecture, speech, or presentation to deliver then select lyric-heavy songs and sing those whilst running/exercising. This will have the same effect on your breathing awareness, word clarity and also train your general fitness.


Remember Your 3 Qs.

Something to keep in mind is the 3-Qs process – when breathing the 3-Qs refers to Quantity – Quantity – Quality breathing.

Basically take 2 deep breaths to every 1 through your nose, this allows the lungs to fill and absorb enough oxygen and also allows the nitric oxide to be collected when passing through our nasal cavity and act as a vessel dilator – increasing oxygen absorption into the blood steam.

As with everything, it takes practise (and you may get some fellow exercisers look at you funny) – but hey it is worth it.