Channeling anxiety into positive energy

Published: Nov. 3, 2017 at 6:22 AM CDT
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Hundreds of runners will line up for the Bass Pro Marathon this weekend. Nearly every one of them will be a bit nervous at the starting line.

It's a common problem for all kinds of athletes. In this week's Fit Life, a performance psychologist is showing young gymnasts how to harness that anxious energy.

If you've ever looked at a gymnast, you may have thought, she looks so calm and focused. Don't judge a gymnast by her cover. There's a lot going on behind those young poker faces.

Gymnast Aryah Moore says, "I start to think negative things... like scary things and maybe i won't be able to do it... maybe I'll hurt myself."

Doctor Seth Allen helps turn natural anxiety into positive energy.

He's teaching the young gymnasts in a class on performance psychology. These athletes are practicing the mental skills that could give them an edge.

Seth Allen asks the class, "We learned how to relax our muscles last week... right?"

Aryah Moore explains one technique, "So, you put your hand on your chest and then your hand on your stomach."

The entire class says, "Belly breathing.."

Aryah explains more about the technique, "And you breath in and breath out... and it helps a lot with calming down and not being overwhelmed. "

Dr. Allen says, "What you hope you to hear is that people you're working with make the connection and they're able to transfer the skills from one setting to the next. That's when you feel like what you're doing is worthwhile."

The lessons are no guarantee of a perfect kip, flip or stuck landing. But, they worked for Tatum Watchman on her social studies test.

Tatum Watchman confides, "It actually did help. Because, I got all of it right."

Paul Adler reports, "Tatum used something called -progressive muscle relxation. If you've ever tensed up and squeezed a stress ball and released the tension, you're doing the same thing."

Dr.Allen tells the class, "You're already learning new skills that can help you in gymnastics and in life. Good job. Thank you all for your questions and you are free to go.... (Class responds) Thank you..."

If you want to learn more about this field of study, The University of Missouri offers masters and doctoral programs in Sport Psychology. The university also offers an online digital workshop in positive coaching.

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