5 Pre-Bout Mind Exercises

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There was a lot of anticipation going into last Saturday’s home bout. It was the first time Shakedown has played at home and the first time my family and friends have ever seen me skate. I had the typical rookie fears in my mind that sounded like this What if I fall during the skate out? What if I do something stupid? What if I totally forget how to skate?

I’m happy to report that I even surprised myself! I have way more control over my nervousness than I thought. And if I’m unable to control it, I can live with it.The days leading up to the game I was totally nervous and jittery feelings completely flooded me. But on game day when I hit the track, I wasn’t nervous once nor did I feel any flutter of anxiety. My initial thought instead was Man, it’s hot in here!

There is no right way to do this and this list just highlights my favorite way to prepare. Whatever works for you, do that. In no particular order:

1. Focus – Moment-to-moment awareness helped me before and during the bout. Focusing on each moment as it comes and staying in the present takes off a lot of pressure. Also, it showed me that my anxious feelings would pass. I just would notice the feeling and let it run its course instead of worrying about how to stop it.

2. Meditate – Clearing my mind by simply sitting still was a nice break from all of my automatic thoughts. I usually carved out 40 minutes a day to do this but did have a couple evenings where I only could get in 10 minutes.

3. Visualize–This was a three part process. I began by thinking about why I love roller derby in the first place, and how I could barely balance on skates when I started. Then, I focused on the good things I had recently done in practice. And finally, I imagined the awesome moves I was going to do during the game.

4. Trust –This might sound silly but I’d talk to my body giving reassurance that I trusted my muscles to do what they knew to do and that my mind would help out. Trusting your stuff makes it easier to stay present and meditate.

5. Breathe–If you cannot do any of the above, just breathe. Focusing on the breath will slow you down and get you out of your head. Even with my heart thumping through my chest the day before, I would breathe deeply until it passed. And I promise it will pass. A nice way to get settled is to lie on your back with knees bent. Lift your hips up as you breathe in and then push down into the floor as you breathe out. Do this for 12 counts and increase the force of breath out as you get closer to the end of the set.

Good news is that all the hard work is done. Now go out there and enjoy playing the game!

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