Relaxation in Sports

Stress is the daily bread in high sports competition. Learning to relax is a vital weapon on the road to sporting success.

Relaxation is the ability of the person to find a moment of calm, peace and tranquility. This capacity is important for the reestablishment of physical and mental homeostasis (balance) in the face of various stressful and / or anxious situations , which can even diminish not only psychological but physical health.

Knowing how to relax in sport, as in life, is very important. It is the most important and powerful weapon to combat stress, anxiety and pressures (external and internal) generated by competitions. There are endless ways to relax. We can mention some, such as a walk in the park, the beach, watching a sunset, listening to the river or the sea, passing through laughter, to more elaborate oriental techniques, such as Yoga, Chi Kung or Tai Chi. Depending on each one and / or the circumstance, some will be more effective than others, this is a process of self-discovery of the person to see what is more effective for himself.

To understand relaxation a little more, you first have to understand what causes us the opposite, that is, states of tension. These occur for the following reasons:

  • Stress: It is produced by exposures of excessive physical, emotional or psychological burden for the person, pa tolerance of it differs from person to person). We consider that the most accurate explanation is Selye’s (1983) proposal on his stress theory, this is divided into three parts:

I Alarm reaction: It has two phases, a shock and one countershock .

  • Shock phase: Initial and immediate reaction to the harmful agent.
  • Phase counter -shock : Reaction Rebound (defense against shock). I Stage of resistance: There is an adaptation of the organism to the stressor together with an improvement and a disappearance of the symptoms.

I Stage of exhaustion: It occurs on the stressor if it is sufficiently severe and prolonged.

Cognitive evaluation is a process by which people constantly assess the meanings of what happens in each situation, relating it to their personal well-being. Belloch, Sandín and Ramos (1995), consider that there are three types of evaluation carried out by the person regarding stress:

  • Primary evaluation: It occurs in each encounter with any external or internal demand. It has four modalities: threat (real or imaginary, but perceived as such by the person), damage-loss (the situation exceeds the person’s resources so the situation will have a considerable cost that will involve a physical or psychological loss), challenge (It is difficult but surmountable) and benefit (something will be gained).
  • Secondary evaluation: Assessment of one’s own resources to cope with the situation, the reaction to stress depends on the way in which the subject perceives their coping resources.
  • Reassessment: Feedback processes that occur as the interaction between the individual and external or internal demands develops.

Stress is the bread and butter of sports. The athlete is constantly evaluating different stressful situations (competitions, public, journalism, parents, opponents, situations, weather, etc.) in relation to their abilities and often in very short periods they have to present adequate responses to overcome the stressful situation.

Anxiety: This phenomenon is characterized by its anticipatory nature, the anxiety response has the ability to anticipate, the danger or threat to the subject. Anxiety is not always in direct proportion to the real danger (objective, such as fear of a lion) of the situation, but can occur irrationally (subjective, fear of competition or heights), occurring in situations of little objective danger, or that they lack real danger. The important thing is that the danger and threat exist for the person, in his mind, therefore, if it is in the mind it becomes real, let’s not forget that several people who live exactly the same situation have different interpretations, precisely because of the character individual with which each situation is lived. Anxiety generates fear (thinking about all the situations that could happen in the future) and fear paralyzes, the athlete can be petrified by the competition, by the public. Adrenaline is the answer to fear. There are various situations that generate adrenaline, sport is one of them, this appears as a response to the feeling of danger. Originally it arose so that man could survive, but now it continues to appear in sport no longer to survive (anesthetizing against pain, or giving the response of flight or attack), but to compete. In sport (usually) life is not at risk, but more psychological issues (prestige, self-esteem, ego, etc.), but adrenaline continues to be generated, which is expected because it is important for the athlete, that means that the person cares, but the adrenaline should be used for and not against it because it can be the worst enemy of the athlete, paralyzing him completely. Adrenaline gives you the option to flee or face and in sport there is no option of escape . Once you are there, you can no longer escape, therefore it is no longer an option, so the athlete must make that adrenaline charge work for himself and not against him, he must learn to control it and not that he is doing it. control him. This is one of the most common problems among athletes, anxiety, generated by competition, rivals, the public, among many others, it is for this reason that it is vital and essential that this work properly with a sports psychologist.

Pressures: The highly competitive sport brings with it a whole series of responsibilities that mean pressure and burden for the athlete. Depending on the athlete, whether it is a collective or individual sport or the type of sport, it will be lived with greater or less intensity, the ideal is that the athlete does not perceive it, does not feel it or even be stimulated by it. In the end, the pressure is not something real but something that is in your head, you must learn to handle it and / or maneuver it in your favor. The pressures can be of two types:

  • Internal: Fears (of ridicule, pain, injury, failure, losing, winning, etc.) intrusive thoughts (day-to-day problems, going to the past or future), irrational thoughts I have done wrong before, so I will always do it doing wrong ”, negative thoughts [‘I can’t do it’, ‘I’m not good’, etc.).
  • External: Demands (public, coach, colleagues, family, friends, press, sponsors, etc.), shouts, etc. The family can demand more time, the coach can demand more training, the public can demand more attention (autographs, emails, letters, etc.), press, interviews, sponsors, photos and / or videos. All this keeps the athlete away from what to do and from the concentration to apply, wearing out psychically.

Integrating stress, anxiety and pressures, we find that they are a chain or a kind of domino: one falls, then the other and so on. Stress arises from the evaluation of one’s resources and / or abilities in relation to a specific problem, event or event, be it internal, external, real or imaginary. Anxiety introduces significance to the facts, which symbolizes the importance, relevance, anticipating them. This brings with it a whole series of psychophysiological manifestations, stomach pain, headache, nausea , sweating hands, chills, sleeping problems, eating problems, muscle tension, negative thinking, desire to urinate, toilet training relaxation, etc. In reality the pressures do not exist, they are exclusively in the mind, for example the public is the same for everyone but each athlete is affected differently, while for one it can be quite stimulating for another it is terrifying, each person lives and experiences the same event, being in the same place and time in a different way, so it is something very personal and subjective.

Faced with difficulties, one returns to previously known behaviors, there is a regression (Caravedo, 2005).

Stress, pressure and anxiety cause the expert to make the same mistakes as a novice or apprentice, since due to these sensations and / or perceptions the athlete becomes too aware of his performance, bringing the technique back to consciousness. that brings with it errors, not allowing the execution to flow and emerge naturally, without forcing it, it returns to consciousness the technique that should be in the subconscious and performed automatically.

These are situations that people feel in general, but in sport all these sensations are intensified, so their handling is essential if the athlete wants to be successful and not suffer constantly. Relaxation is very important, knowing how to relax, both before, during and after the competition. It is the number one tool to combat stress and anxiety, typical of competitive sports that affect athletes so much


  • Makes it more likely: The appearance of fun.

The emergence of creativity.

The emergence of fluency in sport.

  • When it precedes the visualization, it makes the visualization more effective.
  • Provides calm, peace and tranquility.
  • Restores homeostasis.
  • Restores physical and psychological balance.
  • It allows a greater physical and psychological recovery, it makes people happier.
  • Attacks areas in tension.
  • Relieves physical tension.
  • Relieves psychic tension.
  • Regulates breathing.
  • Decreases the pulsations.
  • It allows mejory faster recovery from injuries.
  • It allows you to sleep better and the quality of sleep is increased, achieving a greater recovery.
  • Being relaxed, the brain is more receptive and susceptible, to internalize, positive messages, confidence, visualization or hypnosis, since defenses, consciousness and resistance have lowered their guard.

Ways to relax:

  • Oriental techniques of Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Kung, among others.
  • To laugh.
  • Listen to music.
  • Listen to the sound of the sea or the river.
  • Listen to the singing of the birds.
  • Go for a walk on the beach.
  • See a sunset.
  • Enjoy a rain.
  • Have a nice conversation.
  • Spend time with family, partner and / or children.                               

There are innumerable relaxation techniques, from the breathing techniques mentioned above, to more specific ones to relax specific areas, among the best known where stress accumulates, the neck or the back for example. To delve further into these, it is advisable to consult a sports psychologist specialized in relaxation. It is important for the athlete to discover which techniques are the ones that best serve him and suit him, so that his relaxations are more productive and beneficial. It is essential that the athlete discover the best way to relax, the best athletes have developed this quite well and are quite effective in realizing that it is what they need and that it helps them to relax. For example, for Sofía Mulanovich (2004 world champion and 2005 world runner-up in the WCT Hawaiian Table circuit) the best way to relax was by doing yoga and / or playing tennis (cross training, something very effective that provides psychological relaxation while still doing work physical), for Gabriel Villarán (Latin American champion of the ALAS 2005 tour and the best Peruvian surfer today) the best way to relax is the practice of Yoga, while for the former boxer Ray “Boom Boom ” Mancini (a great former boxer and former world lightweight champion) the best way to relax was listening to audio “jokes”.

Bibliographic references:

  • Carvedo , L. (2005). The Adaptation of the Peruvian Athlete Abroad. Lima: In the area (TV program).
  • Carver , CS and Séller , MF (1997). Personality theories. Mexico DF: Prentice Hall.
  • Chia , M. (2001). Taoist Systems to Transform Stress into Vitality. Buenos Aires: Syrian.
  • Chia , M. (2001). The Fusion of the Five Elements: Advanced Basic Meditations to Transform Negative Emotions. Buenos Aires: Syrian.
  • Chia , M. (2001). Chi Kung: Iron Shirt. Buenos Aires: Syrian.
  • Coon , D. (1999). Psychology: Exploration and Applications. Madrid: International Thomson Editores.
  • Belloch, A., Sandín , B. and Ramos, F. (1995). Manual of psychopathology. Madrid: McGraw-Hill, vol. 1
  • Belloch, A., Sandín , B. and Ramos, F. (1995). Manual of psychopathology. Madrid: McGraw-Hill, vol. 2
  • Jackson, SA and Csikszentmihalyi , M. (2002). Flow in Sport. Barcelona: Paidotribio .
  • Loher , JE (1995). The New Toughness Trainning fro sports : Mental, Emotional , and Physical conditioning from one of the World’s Premier sports Psychologists . New York: Pinguin Books .
  • Macritche , J. (2000). Chi Kung: The Cultivation of Personal Energy. Madrid: Arkan Books .
  • Nieri R., D. (2006). Lecture: Experiences in Sports Psychology. Lima: University of Lima.
  • Nieri R., D. (2006). Lecture: I work with a selection of individual sport. Lima: University of Lima.
  • Nieri R., D. (2006). Fun: Key to Sports Success. http: //www.psicodeportes.comIarticulos/Peru/Nierilla_diversion.html 
  • Nieri R., D. (2006). Presentation: Preparing champions. Lima: Sports Orientation Center (COD)
  • Nieri R., D. (2006). Presentation: Mental training and its stages. Lima: Club Regatas Lima (CRL).
  • Nieri R., D. (2005). Why is Sofía Mulanovich the World Champion? (2005). http: /
  • Nieri R., D. (2003). Lecture: Burnout – The Latent Risk of Competitive Athletes. Country Club Villa (VO
  • Orlick , T. (2004). Mental Training. Barcelona: Paidotribio .
  • Perreaut – Pierre, É. (2000). Sophrology and sports success. Barcelona: Paidotribio .
  • Porten K. (2004). The Mental Athlete Canada : Human Kinetics .
  • Weinberg , RS and Gould , D. (1996). Fundamentals of Sports Psychology and Physical Exercise. Barcelona: Ariel.