The Cost of Trying Too Hard by ProQuest


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									                                            The Racer’s Mind with Bruce Deveau

                                         The Cost of Trying Too Hard
                                    ost racers have had
                                    the experience of try-
                              ing too hard and have paid
                                                                                         muscle group contracting and the other group
                                                                                         relaxing. For example, when you lift your lower arm,
                                                                                         the bicep contracts (you can feel it get firmer) while
                                                                                                                                                                           as possible. Pay attention to what these tension
                                                                                                                                                                           loads feel like. What does it do to your reaction
                                                                                                                                                                           time? The results should tell you something about
                              a price. Trying too hard                                   the triceps relax and extend (you can feel them                                   the balance of muscle tension and relaxation.
                              can be different things for                                loosen). When you drop your lower arm the opposite                                    Once you have a sense of what muscle tension
                              different drivers. To one                                  happens. Therefore, for smooth, controlled muscle                                 does to your reaction times, look over your reaction
                              person, it means thinking                                  action, there must be the capacity for both tension                               statistics for the past year. Are there circumstances
                              too much, and to another,                                  and relaxation.                                                                   at the track or your personal life during which your
it means talking yourself out of winning. Others will                                       The runners who were trying to give 110 percent                                reactions got quicker or slower? Can you relate those
get anxious from the pressure to win.                                                    were unknowingly slowing themselves down by trying                                conditions to effort and tension? Pay attention to
    Either way, trying too hard to win often has the                                     too hard. The extra effort put tension into too many                              these conditions just as you would your engine
opposite effect: You lose. It is important to help you                                   muscle groups. The tension didn’t allow certain                                   timing, weather conditions, or tire pressure.
understand what’s going on when your efforts turn                                        muscle groups to relax fully. Smooth, coordinated,                                    Second, be aware that tension in the mind relates
self-defeating and what to do about it.                                                  and consistent performance requires tension and                                   directly to tension in the body. Any sense of doubt,
    Every driver wants to win, and every driver                                          relaxation to be balanced.                                                        conflict, or fear in your mind is also tension in your
wants to put in a good effort. But what determines                                          Watch any professional athlete, and you will see                               body. Trying harder will fall short if you harbor
how much effort is too much? How much is just                                            him or her working this balance. Baseball pitchers                                negative beliefs about yourself such as self-doubt,
right? Let’s start by seeing what we can learn from                                      take a deep breath just before the windup, basketball                             conflict, or worry.
other sports.                                                                            players do a couple of loose dribbles before                                          We all know that success in drag racing requires
    Professional athletic coaches have found that                                        attempting a free throw, and Olympic swimmers                                     lots of hard work. If you have been working hard but
telling athletes to give it their all can defeat their                                   exhale and wiggle their arms and legs just before                                 not achieving your goals, there may be something else
goal. For example, a track-and-field coach applied                                       taking position on the staging blocks. Each of these                              you can do: You can stop trying and start believing.
pressure to his runners, telling them to put in 110                                      athletes understands the role of relaxation in their                              The more you believe in yourself and your ability, the
percent, and he was disappointed with the results.                                       performance and takes the time to work out the                                    less room there is for self-doubt. Remove self-doubt,
At the next practice, as a test, he suggested the                                        balance just prior to each competition.                                           and you remove a major source of muscle tension.
same group run at 95 percent, and to his surprise,                                          Now, imagine yourself at the starting line.                                        Take some time to study the role that muscle
the runners ran faster at 95 percent than they did at                                    Imagine the thousands of muscle cells primed for                                  tension plays in your reaction time. Learn about
110 percent. Less effort, faster results.                                                action. Whether you launch the car with your foot or                              yourself, just like you learn about aspects of your
    I’ve seen a version of this phenomenon in drag                                       your hand, general tension in your body will affect                               engine and transmission. When you pull to the line
racing. A driver pushes very hard for that first win                                     your speed and consistency because all muscle                                     with a balanced state of tension in your mind and
and keeps getting defeated. On the verge of quitting                                     groups are interconnected. For each driver, there is                              body, you will make gains in reaction speed,
the sport, he stops worrying about winning and                                           an optimum state of balanced tension and                                          consistency, and control. ND
losing and goes out and puts in the performance of                                       relaxation. Your speed, precision, and consistency
his life. How could this happen?                                                         depend on this balance.                                                               Bruce Deveau, MSW, is a psychotherapist, mental-
    One answer is muscle tension.                                                           Muscle tension imbalance will cause inconsistency                              skills coach, and author of The Racer’s Mind, a
    To understand how muscle tension and too much                                        in your reaction time. What can you do about it?                                  workbook and CD for driver concentration. For
effort result in poor performance, we start with a bit                                      First, take the concept of muscle tension balance,                             information, log on to Send
about body mechanics. Each body movement involves                                        and test it on yourself with your practice Tree. Try                              correspondence regarding this column to The Racer’s
at least two muscle groups acting in a coordinated                                       putting extra tension into your hand or foot as you                               Mind, P.O. Box 392, Amesbury, MA 01913 or call
manner. Body movements are controlled by one                                             practice. Then, try relaxing those muscles as much                                978-388-4331; e-mail,

 N      NHRA Racer Information
        Competition Registration Form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80

 H      Member-track Directory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111
        Official Sponsors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89
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