Olympic Preparation Series: Athletes’ Routines

This entry in the Olympic Preparation Series addresses the importance of sustaining an athlete’s routine. Every athlete has a routine that is used to create consistency, regulate intensity, prepare for peak performance, and focus the mind on the task at hand. Most elite athletes are well aware of their routine and, in fact, the measure of the athlete’s experience or competition level can sometimes be qualified by their awareness of their routine alone. As such, it would be easy to say that Olympic athletes will just use their “normal” routine to help them through the elite Games. That proposition is not far from the mark, but must be qualified, as there is nothing “normal” about the Olympic Games in comparison to what most athletes endure and face, even in order to reach this pinnacle of performance.

If we were to break up an athlete’s routine from general to specific and itemize sequences, action sets, mental rehearsal, and logistics (including travel, venue, staff interaction, fans, media, etc.), we would want to begin with an outline/platform of a routine and then identify the small tweaks best suited for different demands/ environment. Developing an awareness of your routine through this method allows the athlete to adjust and adapt accordingly without jeopardizing the integrity of their systematic routine. It also allows for the athlete to feel that they are creating the best opportunity for flow state (peak performance) regardless of outside variables. They can rely on what they can control and be flexible with what they cannot.

Sustaining the routine that got the athlete to the Olympic Games can also be a huge confidence booster because it will remind them of their determination, effort, and performance. It can be very validating to ensure the athlete feels as if they belong in the Games. Their routine helps to focus their attention on controllable factors and avoid getting stuck focusing on feelings of nervousness or self-doubt – research demonstrates such internal awareness can result in decreased performance.

Finally, the Olympic Games come with a plethora of distractions and variables that are outside the “norm” of what the athlete may be familiar with. Their routine ensures that despite media, other athletes, distractions, and the immensity of it all, they have an anchor that does not get disrupted and a compass to navigate the unfamiliar. Even being used to cameras, media, and multitudes of fans at home may not protect an athlete from the same when it is delivered in different languages and nations. The routine can help to soften the foreign feel and refocus the attention to performance and objectives.

Key Points:

  1. Sustain a routine for consistent performance
  2. Have an outline of the routine that can be somewhat flexible
  3. Use the flexibility of the routine to adjust and adapt to extraordinary demands

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