How to improve sporting performance on the day
It's too late to get fitter, too late to improve your rusty technique, too late to come up with a plausible excuse. Yes, the day of the big game has arrived.
Whether it's teaching your son the intricacies of the forward defensive, a kickaround in the park with your mates or the first heat of the Olympics, how can you improve your sporting performance on the day of the event? Here are ten ways.
1. Eat the right food - have a decent carbohydrate meal three hours before (potatoes, rice or cereal) and a high-glycaemic (instant energy) snack like a banana or raisins an hour before. Don't eat in the hour before exercise.
2. Drink - a litre of water for each hour of exercise (including swimming) but don't wait until you're sweating to start. Have plenty of liquid with your pre-exercise grub. Orange squash is a cheap, easy hypotonic drink for before during and after exercise.
3. Choose the right time of day - the body's temperature (good for the muscles) and its metabolism (good for energy processing) are at their peak in late afternoon, early evening.
4. Check the weather and choose the right gear - crucial games in the Hackney Marshes Sunday morning reserve league have been lost through star strikers sliding around frosty pitches in plimsolls. Wear a hat and loose clothing in the sun, a simple headband will keep the sweat out of your eyes whatever the sport.
5. Warm-up appropriately - if it's hot, you still need to warm up even if you're already sweating. If it's cold, keep your muscles warm with a tracksuit, for example, and warm up for longer. The more energetic the sport, the longer the warm-up needs to be. The most vigorous such as squash or rugby need up to half-hour. A proper warm-up will reduce injury risk and enable you to get a few points on the board while your opponent is still creaking up through the gears. An impressive, professional looking warm-up on your part may also intimidate an opponent. (If you don't know how to warm-up for your sport, find out - it's biggest single thing you can do to improve your performance.)
6. Try some mind-body strategies - before competing, imagine scoring the winning goal or crossing the finish-line vividly in your head (visualisation) and repeat over and over to yourself what you are going to do - 'today's the day I beat my seven-year old niece at Scrabble' (positive affirmation).
It can work. Former British javelin thrower Steve Backley went so far as to have the rhythm of his feet on his run-up to his world record throw digitised on to a tape. He then listened to them over and over like a favourite song. Sceptical? Backley won 4 European golds, 2 Olympic silvers, 2 World Silvers and 1 Olympic Bronze.
Visualisation can even help cancer patients. In a trial in Hull those who visualised their body overcoming the invading cancer cells produced measurable improvements in their immune systems.
7. Don't have a bath - you may think this will help you warm-up but the heat will increase heart rate and reduce blood pressure meaning less oxygen gets to the muscles. Not good unless your sport is synchronised fainting. A warm (rather than hot) shower is a much better bet.
8. Pre match sex? It all depends on your position - the classic Israeli study of footballers found that strikers performed best if they abstained for six days before a game, midfielders for four and defenders for three. (So that's why Wayne Rooney's so miserable.) If you can't resist, note that sexual intercourse uses up about the same amount of energy as twenty minutes of football.
9. Wear the right socks - don't fork out a fortune on kit and footwear and then buy your socks down the market. You use your feet differently for different sports so get a pair designed for what you are doing. They'll reduce the risk of blisters, provide better protection and help your feet breathe.
10. Finally, plan your gamesmanship. For example, make sure you know the rules inside out and then engineer a situation early on in the game in which you can demonstrate this superior knowledge. A feeling of ignorance can make a massive dent in your opponent's confidence and thus in performance. Works miles better with blokes than women though (they frankly couldn't care less about the rules).
Page created on July 30th, 2008
Page updated on January 15th, 2010