Life is full of ups and downs. Yin and yang. We ride along waves. There are moments of absolute zen that we wish could last forever and then there are moments that seem to last an eternity that we wish we could destroy. The moment during a 5k where it feels like we’re in mile one but we’re heading toward the finish line. We throttled up and are about to set a new PR! The moment during a basketball game where we come off the bench nervous, anxious and promptly dribble the ball off of our foot. We throttled down and lost our focus on the moment.
The balance of intensity is where we find the zone. We look to athletics as a means to find that balance. The moments that exist in the present are opportunities to see if our training and practice of managing intensity can help us perform at a peak level. There is a moment prior to a contest where a team will do one of two things. They or the person may get so pumped up and excited with the crowd backing them that they come out making careless errors. They’re way too far up on the throttle spectrum of intensity. They or the person may come out already looking defeated with poor body language. They’re way too far down on the throttle spectrum of intensity.
The San Antonio Spurs of the NBA provide a gorgeous example of finding their place on the intensity spectrum. Their bodies and minds are engaged in what they are currently wanting to achieve, but there are no extremes. What is absent is the over-the-top hype that is believed necessary to intimidate an opponent. Each play down the court is an opportunity to find the balance. The body language of players does not show a disinterest or dislike for one another or the game they are playing. There is no absence of love for the game of basketball. The Spurs are a beautiful example of the balance of intensity.
We go up and then we will come down. Let’s work to make our movement along the intensity spectrum less extreme. Let’s work to find balance and see shifts that are small and controlled. This is where we find “the zone.”
Intensity – Own Your Zone
“Don’t get psyched up, get psyched right” – Anonymous
When athletes are “flowing” or “in the zone,” they are maintaining a certain intensity level while being mindful of the moment, which helps them achieve their peak performance.
Consider the following strategies to increase or decrease your intensity levels to meet the demands of the situation.
- Throttle Up
- Take three to five forceful breaths.
- Create a powerful image such as battleship, a fierce animal or a volcanic eruption.
- Make powerful movements such as pumping your fist or clapping your hands.
- Repeat energizing thoughts such as “Yes, I can!” or “Get my A-game on!”
- Recall your favorite up-tempo song.
- Throttle Down
- Take three to five calming breaths.
- Imagine a serene scene such as a cool mountain lake.
- Perform light stretches.
- Think calming thoughts such as “Clear mind, relaxed body.”
- Recall your favorite relaxing song.
The next time you are practicing or competing, ask yourself, “Is my intensity level too low, too high, or just right?” Adjust accordingly to achieve your ideal zone for peak performance.
BOOK – “The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes think, train and thrive.” by Jim Afremow (BUY IT!)