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  • Writer's pictureMindy McCarthy

The Beauty (and difficulty) of Routines

I recently had a week where I was not sleeping well. As someone who works out early in the morning, it was beginning to affect my workouts, my work, and my overall mood. I decided to take a week off from working out in the morning and prioritize rest and relaxation to make sure my body was not breaking down physically and mentally.

During this week, I started thinking about how I still felt a little “off” even though I was finally getting some good rest for my body. Then, it hit me. It’s because I was out of my routine.

Routines can be so helpful when working towards your goals. I have a morning routine where I exercise in the morning, eat a good breakfast, get ready for work, and I am out the door to start that part of my day. My morning routine is something that helps me feel normal even though things that are happening in our society are far from it.

When wanting to develop a new healthy habit, for example, it becomes easier as you make it part of your routine. Let’s say for instance you make a point to meal plan on Sunday’s. It is as if you are making goals for each meal of the week to help you stay on track with your long-term goal. While you still have to fix the foods during those times, you don’t necessarily have to think about what you are going to have for those meals because you have planned it out. Once it becomes part of your routine, it is second nature to take some time to plan your meals for the week each Sunday.

The same can go for training regimens. If you make it part of your daily routine to do something that helps your training, you are more likely to stick to it. It also helps when you are not feeling as motivated to get up early to do the workout or to drive to your training facility because you know you are committed to this part of your routine.

All of this also got me thinking about pregame routines. I work with athletes frequently on their pregame routines to figure out what works best for them to get them prepared for their upcoming competition.

One famous example is Steph Curry’s pregame routine with the dribbling and shooting

drills that he consistently does that have become somewhat of a Youtube sensation. While some people may see it as Curry putting on a show, he is going through his normal pregame routine that he knows works well for his body mentally and physically.

Routines before the game can help you feel more calm and relaxed because you have done this before. It can also be a way that you are slowly moving through the motions where you may not need to think as much as you will during the actual competition. These moments are also important because you can focus on each task that you want to achieve in the competition, and it gives you a chance to practice it as well as visualize yourself achieving that task.

However, these perfect pregame routines may not always be available for athletes to do. During these Covid times, limiting the interaction with other players may be something that is mandated which would mean potentially less time on the court or field before a game, or they may change the time that you can be out there doing the pregame routine to accommodate other people needing the same space but not sharing it at the same time. Some coaches may mandate certain pregame routines, too, that every player should do rather than having the players warm up the way they want to. When things like your pregame ritual are changed, how can you still find a way to optimally perform?

Here are some tips:

Pick what is important for you:

Find what are the most important components of your pregame routine, and focus on achieving those even if you cannot do the full routine. There is a reason you implemented these components in your pregame ritual, so find a way to still achieve the most important pieces of it.

Have a back up plan:

Having a plan B is always a great option when you have to modify things like where you are doing your pregame routine or the amount of time that you have. Develop a plan B in these situations so that you can still go through the flow of your routine and find the benefits of coming into your competitive optimal mindset.

Implement a mental skill into your routine:

The great thing about mental skills training is that it can be accomplished anywhere. Figure out something that you can implement into your pregame routine that focuses on your mental skills whether that is mental imagery, relaxation, positive self-talk, etc. Using this in your pregame routine assures that you will always at least be able to practice these techniques before you have to compete.

In a time where things aren’t feeling so normal, what are some things you can implement in your routine to help you feel like you are about to optimally perform?

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