Think back to the moments leading up to a big competition or performance. Think about the atmosphere in the locker room. Think about how people moved around. Before a competition or performance you tend to see a lot of nervous energy.

People fidget and pace. They develop idiosyncratic quirks and twitches. They develop a tunnel vision and their mind becomes very literal. Think back. It was very difficult to joke around with someone about to take center stage. As the focus of the mind narrows, movement becomes stiff and mechanical. This is why you often see simple mistakes in the very beginning of a competition. The athlete is tense and tight.

In essence, the performer loses control of their energy OR they did not control their energy from the beginning. As the competition continues, the athlete often settles in and energy is regained (hence, the reason athletes often leave wishing they performed in the beginning as they did at the end). Has this ever happened to you?

I am sure this has happened to every athlete and performer at one time or another. Luckily, there is hope to regain control of you energy. The answer is Deep Breathing.

Deep breathing is a practice of taking deep breaths in the abdomen; in though your nose, out through your mouth. Many studies show the effectiveness of deep breathing in reducing anxiety in many different settings. The idea of deep breathing is not a new one. It has been learned and modified from Eastern cultures and meditation.
Once you regain control of your breath, you begin to regain control of your body. You feel in control of your own energy. You become centered. Your movement becomes more fluid and decisive.

As a college wrestler, I began deep breathing and have seen immediate results. The athletes that I work with have been taught deep breathing and they have seen immediate results. And if you learn how to deep breathe, I can guarantee that you will see immediate results.

How to do it:
Find a quiet place and begin taking deep breaths (in through your nose, out through your mouth) through your stomach. In the beginning, place a hand on your abdomen to make sure you feel only your stomach moving in and out. Think of nothing but breathing. At this point in time, there is nothing else in the world that exists but your breath.

How to do it even better:
Follow the above directions and add a cue or anchor to deep breathing. In other words, physically perform a certain behavior while you begin deep breathing. Ie. I would place my hands on my thighs throughout my deep breaths.

How to do this best: Follow the above directions and add a symbol of serenity associated with your cue or anchor. Ie. Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid (In the Karate Kid, Miyagi places his hands on his thighs before he meditates-> this was an image that my imagination could relate with). Find your symbols
Finally, you must pair your anchor and symbol to your cue regularly. You must practice deep breathing many times before a competition before an actual competition. Practice deep breathing at least twice a week. You will see results. You will relax and regain control of your energy.

Gene Zannetti