"When I step onto the blocks to race, I switch into a different gear. It doesn't matter what kind of training I have or what's going on in my life, I'm always going to rise to the occasion."
Bob Bowman, Michael Phelps' coach, says that structured relaxation has been a part of Phelps' prerace routine since he was 12 years old and is a key to his success. Bowman introduced Phelps to progressive relaxation and includes a recitation of cues.
Every night before Phelps went to sleep, his mother, Debbie, would sit with him in his dimly lit bedroom, read a script, and command him to relax different parts of his body. With considerable practice, Phleps could relax without his mother's cues. With more practice, he became adept at placing himself in the same meditative state in the ready room before a race.
Once he cleared his mind and loosened his limbs, Phelps would swim each race over and over in his mind. In addition to a perfect race, Phlep pictures himself overcoming every conceivable obstacle to achieve his goal time so that when he stands on the blocks he feels as if nothing can stand in the way of him and his quest.
"I do go through everything from a best-case scenario to the worst-case scenario just so I'm ready for anything that comes my way," Phelps says.
So, for example, when Phelps' goggles unexpectedly filled with water during the finals of the 200 butterfly at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, he did not panic. He counted his strokes so he knew where the walls were and was able to lower his world record and win the gold medal.
Excerpts from the New York Times (July 26, 2009).
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