The greater the stakes of the competition, the more you will be thinking about the medals and the result. To perform well, rather than focusing on the outcome, you must focus on what you need to do to get there, which is to apply your strategy1.
On the day of a bout, when your stress level starts to rise, review your game plan for one or two minutes, and put your mind on something else for the next few hours. Repeat a few times if necessary during the day.
It’s good to feel a little stressed; it’s even essential for optimal performance. On the other hand, too much stress can be harmful, so we have to strike the right balance.
Don’t listen to your body
From one bout to another, it’s normal for your stress level to vary, and for its manifestations to be different. So don’t worry if your sensations are not always the same! No need to try to reproduce perfectly the state in which you were before a good performance in the past. You’ve probably experienced it in sparring: sometimes you feel tired, yet perform very well, while other times you feel ready and motivated, yet you give an average performance. In short, do not listen to your body before getting into the ring: it doesn’t predict the future!
Tricks to reduce stress on the day of a fight
We all have our own way of managing stress. Here are some tricks that work for me.
• Watch funny videos
I was told that Georges St-Pierre would watch funny videos on YouTube before his fights. (But don’t quote me on this; I haven’t checked if it’s true). I tried it, and it’s miraculous! It relaxes you and it helps take your mind off things. It’s exactly what you need on the day of a fight, when there are still long hours to wait!
• Listen to music
Listen to music, yes, but not just any music! Music greatly influences our mood. On the day of a fight, the music you listen to should follow a progression: early in the day, listen to calming music and then, a few fights before yours, gradually change to music that motivates you. We don’t always realize it, but upbeat music can make us spend energy. Energy is precious and fragile: keep it all for the ring!2.
Tip: Prepare a “fight day” playlist of soothing music and a “pre-fight” playlist of upbeat tunes. While creating your lists, make sure to classify the songs according to the effect they have on you – some people are motivated by classical music, for example, so that music would go in the “pre-fight” list. The 5 stars on iTunes are very handy for that!
• Skip rope for a few minutes
When we are stressed, we sometimes tend to breathe less deeply, which can cause fatigue and even make us yawn. There are several fights before the beginning of your warm-up and the wait seems unbearable? Then, skip rope for a few minutes. You will increase your oxygen intake (which will help you wake up), and you will feel a little more calm. Skipping is much less demanding than shadow boxing or doing mitts, so you will keep your energy. I said only a few minutes though; you don’t want to tire yourself out!
1Source : Tennis – Pensez comme un champion : mode d’emploi pour gagnerby Jean-Philippe Vaillant.
2Thanks to Robert Schinke for this valuable lesson!