Professional Athlete Workouts

Mastering the Beast

If the impact of arousal on performance is due largely to an athlete’s attitude and ability to channel emotions, then he has great powers to affect the outcome of a match. Can we harness our mind-body systems and their extra powers? John Krystal, director of the laboratory of clinical psychopharmacology at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in West Haven, Connecticut, believes we can. It’s very clear that this (arousal) system is very sensitive to learning. There’s a difference between stress and distress. Ifs stressful for an athlete to compete, but he learns ways to relax and keep control. Ifs an adaptive process. That’s why athletes are so healthy.

All great athletes have choked under pressure, including Michael Jordan in the 1995 playoff losses to the Orlando Magic, Brazil’s Ronaldo in the 1998 World Cup of soccer, Roger Maris hitting .105 in the 1961 World Series after hitting a record 61 homers during the regular season, and record-smashing Ukranian pole vaulter Sergei Bubka, who failed to clear any height in the 1992 Summer Olympics. And yet successful athletes seem able to get over the wall of pressure and pain more often than not.

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When Jordan feels the butterflies in his stomach, he knows extra powers are at his disposal, that the pressure can liberate him or smother him, and he has brilliantly learned how to get them flying in formation most of the time. Of course I have failed in the clutch many times, but some people will say that’s why in the end I’m so successful, he said.

There are many talented athletes, but is it possible that what separates the consistent winners from the rest of the pack is their ability to evoke and manipulate intense emotions which produce amazing hormones and, hence, these unusual experiences where more things seem possible? Some athletes have made a career out of using their emotions, and perhaps their survival instincts, to raise the level of their play even beyond what was thought to be their abilities; hockey player Maurice Richard, baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb, and football linebacker Dick Butkus come to mind. Such athletes with uncommon desire and drive, who consider sports more than a game, seem to trigger and control a higher emotional response than others.

Professional Athlete Workouts

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