on to more regularly updated blogs. Truth is, I’ve had a half dozen blog
ideas, but I’m never near an internet-connected computer when I have them,
so they’ve stayed in my head.
But I’ve stumbled onto a subject of interest lately, and I think it’s even
pertinent to those of us in our ‘off’ season. I read a NY Times article
titled "Free the mind and fewer injuries may follow," and it had some
interesting information in it.
Let me save you the trouble of having to get a Times Select login by just
summarizing for you: stress cases have a greater chance of becoming injured
in sports. First off, they’ll have a harder time concentrating and will
stand a greater chance of making a mental mistake and getting hurt. Second,
they have to deal with a greater amount of cortisol in their bloodstreams,
and cortisol both lowers your immune response (making you more susceptible
to illness) and "impedes the body’s ability to repair muscles," making it
difficult for you to recover. Third point: stress increases general muscle
tension; thus, you’re more likely to tear or strain your muscle or soft
So there you have it: relax, you’ll be a better athlete for it.
But I think there’s more to this. I was reading something in my old health
science textbook recently about stress responses, and one researcher’s
conclusions seemed to indicate that people are either hardcore stress cases
or they respond to everything like it’s a day at the beach. I’m trying to
think of the terminology the researcher used … but it’s escaping my mind.
Anyway, basically, some people have taught themselves to respond to
stressfull situations without actually becoming stressed while others get
freaked out at the slightest thing.
Me, I think I’ve tended to be the latter. Why is that a problem? It amounts
to increased blood pressure, risk for heart attacks, yada yada. But they
suggest that it’s really just a question of the responder’s coping
mechanisms–how he or she handles it mentally. I could be way off, but I
think that’s a factor in sport performance as well–how much you freak out
about the competition. Think about it: some people freeze when they’re
placed in a high-pressure position in a sport. And, in my opinion, that’s
one of the big differences between the pros and us regular joes (and, yes, I
watched much of the Pros Vs Joes Marathon on SpikeTV over the weekend–did
you notice that one of the winners was a triathlete from Chicago?).
So that’s one of my goals for competition this year: to relax about it, to
limit the cortisol involved, to keep the panic to a minimum. I mean, heck,
when it comes to competition on a bike or in a triathlon or a foot race, I
have nothing to lose. Really, it’s not as though my career or my self-esteem
are hinging on my performance, so who cares how well I do? I’m in this to
finish and, I would hope, improve my times along the way. If I’m the last
19-29 sport-class racer to cross the finish line, I think I can still live
with myself and maybe, just maybe, even go home smiling.
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