As a two-time Olympian and World Cup Downhill Champion, who has experienced the tremendous pressure that Olympic athletes face, I’ve found that the methods athletes use to handle the demands of the Olympics can also be used by anyone in challenging times. Athletes face a whirlwind of emotion and activity at the Olympic Games. They arrive with anticipation and their excitement continues to increase with the energy of the fans.
They have to compete with that adrenaline while staying mentally calm and relaxed, which is a difficult task. It’s a real challenge to not have the hype of all the extra security and all the extra activity over-take you before you compete. I always cringe when I see athletes on TV interviewed saying, “Oh, I’m just going to treat it like another race.” It’s not another race. There’s way more going on than during a normal event. In order to succeed, athletes have to prepare for all the extra distractions and have a game plan to take everything in stride.
The methods athletes use for dealing with all the stress can work for your challenging situations, too. You have to practice your breathing, relax, and visualize your “routine” (whether it’s a downhill ski course or a crucial presentation in front of board members). You have to think, “What do I need to do right now to prepare for that moment” and also decide what you don’t need to do at that time. Although winners have done the necessary preparation and training, their response to unforeseen challenges can give them the winning edge. In downhill skiing, the weather can be a major variable.
You have to not only be at peak performance, but also be good at staying calm and jumping back in the game when something unplanned throws you off. So give yourself the freedom to visualize new accomplishments. You can do amazing things when you train to be a champion.
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