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					                                                            Suppose a distance runner continues to run
       Mental Techniques to                            tremendously faster during practice than during
         Improve Athletic                              races. The athlete's coach insists he is physically
                                                       capable of reaching his goals, yet he repeatedly
           Performance                                 fails to meet his physical ability during
                                                       competition and the "why" is unknown.
degrees-outside-shade                                      The problem could be related to his arousal
                                                       levels. Although the definition of arousal varies
                                                       according to different experts; it may be defined
    Why Bother To Set Goals                            as, "an energizing function responsible for
                                                       harnessing the body's resources for intense &
                 by Emily Hartman                      vigorous activity (Arent)."

    It is one-hundred degrees outside and shade            In an aroused state, an athlete might
from anywhere is sparse, yet there are plenty of       experience increased heart rate and blood
dedicated, competitive runners and cyclists            pressure, tense muscles, and anxiety. In terms of
pounding the pavement on a summer day in               the brain, epinephrine, norepinephrinealso known
Phoenix, Arizona. These endurance athletes may         as adrenaline, and cortisol are all released. The
or may not realize that their racingmore               question is: how much of an arousal state should
specifically peak performancecan potentially           one be in, in order to achieve peak performance?
increase with sport psychology techniques.             The answer is not clear. T

    Goal setting, arousal-performance                      he drive theory suggests low arousal equals
relationships, and imagery have been tested            low performance and vice versa. Contrary to the
numerous times in order to show increased peak         drive theory, the inverted-U hypothesis proposes
performance in endurance athletes. Although            that an optimally aroused state is one in which
there are many theoretical ideas and not               the athlete has balanced his arousal level between
necessarily concrete statistics, it is believed by     low and high. Consequently, a low arousal state
many highly trained professionals that the             would cause underperformance, and a high
aforementioned mental training techniques will         arousal state would cause an equally poor
undoubtedly improve mental stamina.                    performance.

    Why bother to set goals? If one does not set            Estimating the appropriate arousal level can
goals, whether in sport or elsewhere, they are         be complicated since each athlete responds
lacking direction. Goals, when combined with a         differently to situations. If an endurance athlete is
coach's feedback, can be an effective way to           perceived to have too high of an arousal level, he
increase an endurance athlete's performance            can practice relaxation or imagery to bring it down
level. In the psychology world, there are three        to a more appropriate level. If the athlete has low
types of goals: Outcome, performance, and              levels, he might play certain music, or practice
process.                                               imagery.

    Outcome goals focus on the end results of an            Imagery is possibly the most widely used
event; for instance, crossing the finish line before   mental training technique. Imagery involves using
an opposing racer. Performance goals are made by       all of one's senses: visual, auditory, olfactory,
looking at previous achievements and improving         gustatory, tactile, and kinesthetic in order to
upon them, such as running a faster five-              create an experience in one's mind (Greenleaf).
kilometer time. Process goals focus on technique,
and the steps one may take in order to improve.             There are two types of perspectives involved in
                                                       imagery: the internal perspective and the external
   A 100-meter sprinter might create a process         perspective. Internal means the athlete would
goal of getting out of the blocks more quickly.        view himself from within his body. External
According to Daniel Gould, a professor at              means the athlete views himself as others might
Michigan State University, Goal setting works          see him. Much research has concluded that both
because it increases self confidence, focus,           perspectives incur positive results. It is suggested
persistence, and promotes the progress of new          that an athlete practice both techniques in order
approaches to learning.                                to find which way is most useful for the
    An endurance athlete can use imagery to
prepare for competition by taking himself through
the race the night before, or as part of the
athlete's warm-up routine. Research shows that
imagery increases self confidence, motivation and
attention control, in addition to decreasing

    There are four explanations for how imagery
works: the psychoneuromuscular theory, symbolic
learning theory, bioinformational theory, and
attention-arousal set explanation. However, it
appears to be generally accepted that imagery
works by creating a "mental blueprint" in one's
mind, and by practicing the imagery one's skills
will become habitual, or strengthened.

    In order to reach peak performance, an
endurance athlete in top physical condition
absolutely must be on their mental game. If one's
mind is not on the same page as one's body, it
will be very hard to perform at the level the
athlete is capable of performing at.

    It is especially crucial for endurance athletes
to increase their mental stamina. By setting
realistic goals, controlling arousal, and utilizing
imagery on a regular basis, the long distance
runner, the 1500 meter swimmer, and the cyclist
can enhance their performance and be ready to
peak at the proper time.

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