Athletes need interventions that improve performance. Finding an intervention that works could involve working with a professional sports scientist or following a self-help package. Recent years has seen a rapid growth in the popularity in self-help interventions. Andy Lane offers guidance on how to use self-help interventions to improve performance.Self-help intervention can successfully manage anxiety, develop interventions to help people manage cravings when following diets and successfully led to runners not only experiencing more pleasant emotions but also performing better.
So how do I develop an effective self-help package?
The question an individual following a self-help intervention should ask her or himself is; “how do I identify where gains can be made”? A training diary can be a very effective way of identifying which variables to target for intervention work. The diary needs to capture important variables that influence performance and be open to the possibility that you are not assessing the right information. make sense of it. When deciding what data to record, you should also consider what you will do with it. If you record time spent training then presumably you will use this information to gauge whether it was useful in helping you achieve your goal? If you believe that running long periods of time, or completing certain distances, will help you achieve your marathon goal, then seeing that you are running for longer is likely to improve your confidence. However, if confidence is also influenced by the relative intensity of each run, and you realise that you are running for longer but at a lower intensity your confidence to be able to run at the high intensity on race day may not necessarily be increased. In the example above, the athlete should reflect on whether distance covered is truly a marker of progress with a suggestion that speed needs to be considered and recorded. The key point here is to have a strategy on how you will analyse data and how this will relate to the relative achievement of your goals.Keeping a training diary could be an intervention itself, particularly for helping manage unwanted emotions. Expressive writing is proposed to help process information better, and help restructure information from these experiences in a way that if such a situation arises next time, then they are better coped to deal with it.
Record how you feel in the diary; e.g.
I have been really lethargic today and just really sluggish. It’s the last day of a few days hard training, and I know I should have toughed it out before the rest day, which made me feel guilty and depressed. I’m also worried that this will affect my performance.
Recording your mood is also helpful, just rate these from 1 = not at all to 5 = very much so. Anxious, Calm, Happy, Sad, Still, Dejected, Energetic, Fatigued and Excited.
By exploring the likely cause of unwanted emotions, you also begin to develop a blueprint that helps you recognisesituations which bring these and therefore provide opportunities through which to choose a different path to act in the future. For example, if speaking to competitors on the start line gets you particularly nervous, or their banter evokes anger which in turn affects your race strategy, then recognising this to be the case might help change your decision on where to warm-up. You could warm-up alone or rather than warming up near your competitors, and if situational factors prevent this, then listening to music via headphone can serve to block out their conversations.From recording in the diary over a period of time you can learn strategies such as Imagery, Positive Self-Talk and If-then plans which I will leave to another time.
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Consultant Sport Psychologists Andy Lane