7 Tips to Do Before You Hit the Court, Track, Field or Road

7 Tips to Do Before You Hit the Court, Track, Field or Road
By Dr. Kimberly Wagner

What do football, tennis, basketball and soccer all have in common? Running.

Whether it's a big game or race, running takes a toll on your body, both physically and mentally. If your mind fatigues during competition, then you're more likely to injure yourself and be sidelined for weeks—or longer.

To keep your body healthy—and to prevent injury or re-injury, try these seven mental tips to get you ready for your big game or race.

1. Make Challenging, yet realistic goals. The goal shouldn't be so simple that you don't have a sense of accomplishment once it's achieved. Setting a challenging goal will help you improve your performance, as long as the goal is not so difficult that it's impossible to reach. If the goal is too difficult you may fail to take it seriously or you'll experience a sense of failure and frustration when you don't meet the goal. Also, when you set a realistic goal, you experience more success and feel more competent which can build self-confidence as well as reduced a fear of failure.

2. Make specific and measurable goals. The goal clearly states what you would like to accomplish as well as how you will be able to measure the performance that relates to that goal. For example, a specific and measurable goal could be, "I am going to reduce my golf score by two strokes every round of golf that I play."

3. Express goals in positive terms rather than negative terms. For example, a goal in negative terms would be, "I do not want to strike out this game." To make that goal positive rather than negative, you could change it to, "I want to get one hit per game."

4. Try a new breathing technique. If you experience any pre-performance anxiety, use relaxation and breathing exercises to help relax your body to a moderate level of relaxation. Research has shown that moderate levels of anxiety (as opposed to high- or low-levels of anxiety) produce the best performance results. A great way to help your body achieve a moderate level of anxiety without being too relaxed is through a technique called Belly Breathing. In belly breathing you breathe using your diaphragm and expand your belly rather than using your lungs and chest expands.

5. Learn how to calm your mind. Once you have calmed your body, then you can work on calming your mind. Think positive thoughts about yourself and your performance. Remind yourself of previous successes you've had. Also, try counting along with your breathing as you inhale and exhale while doing your relaxation/breathing exercise. In addition, imagine yourself in a place that is relaxing and tranquil for you. This can help you steer clear of negative thoughts.

6. Say positive affirmations to yourself. You can say things like, "I can do this," or "I've prepared myself for this." Try to develop a list of positive affirmations that you can say to yourself prior to performing so you have a list you can choose from rather than having to think of them on the spot.

7. See it and believe it. Visualize yourself performing and performing successfully. If you can imagine yourself being successful, then you're more likely to succeed. For example, envision yourself shedding one minute off of your mile pace. Or, see yourself scoring the game-winning touch down. See it and believe in it.

Dr. Kimberly Wagner is a licensed clinical psychologist and sport psychologist in San Diego, California. To learn more about Dr. Wagner, please visit her website at