Getting into the Zone
As you might imagine, or perhaps already know, getting in the ring can be a nerve-racking experience! This is true for boxers of all levels, but it is especially true in the beginning. The inability for a boxer to manage their thought process and inner dialogue can cause frustration, apprehension, anxiety or even fear. A boxer’s mental experience impacts their body in a very real way and performance suffers. Thus, not only must a boxer be physically fit, he or she must also be mentally prepared.
The requisite mental preparedness can be learned through proper training.
Basically, the way in which you practice will be the way in which you fight. If you train with a tense body, you will fight with a tense body. If you are unfocused in training, you will not be able to focus in competition. See where this is going?
Of course, I admit, this is easier said than done – and there are times when, no matter what you do, staying relaxed yet focused or remaining “in the moment” will be a challenge. Often times, this is simply due to the hustle and bustle of everyday life. If your brain is fried by a long day at work, don’t expect to be the sharpest tack when you arrive at the gym at 8pm at night.
So what is the answer? Well, to each, his own – but perhaps the following ideas will help get you started.
- Adjust your workout as required. If your body is tired, but your brain is fresh – challenge yourself with some new technique and bring down the power level. Conversely, if your brain is empty – make it a conditioning day.
- Plan ahead. Make the day before hard sparring a rest day to ensure you are fresh!
- Desensitize. Occasionally, challenge yourself and pay attention to your mental and physical state. Once you are accustomed to a situation, it’s often easier to focus and perform to your fullest.
- Develop a reaction drill – something that will allow you to practice your state of readiness, by resisting anticipation and allowing your impulses to flow.
- Give yourself some time to unpack your brain. Perhaps warm up with some roadwork and acknowledge those ideas still nagging for your attention. Return to the gym ready to go with a clean palate.
- Get some rest. A lack of rest will exhaust you both mentally and physically. Grab a few minutes of shut-eye before entering the gym if you have to!
- Meditate. Staying in the moment is largely a matter of balancing the awareness of your physical being, your thought processes, and your emotions. Stay grounded in your physical sensations as your mind tries to wander. Practice makes perfect.
- If you are having difficulty performing to your own satisfaction – try removing some of the pressure you put on yourself – whether it be related to physical or mental performance. Ironically, sometimes ‘less is more’ and by keeping it simple, or by not trying to force everything, things will start to click.
- Keep a positive mental attitude. Hey – if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. You are doing it because it is hard and you’ve come a whole lot further than a whole lot of others, so keep it up!
Remember, the difference between a champion and anyone else is the ability to perform under pressure. Since the stress is basically inevitable and unavoidable, the question isn’t really how it can be avoided; it’s how you are going to deal with it and – hopefully – use it to keep you focused, motivated, and growing.