Balancing the Physiological and Psychological

Balancing the Physiological and Psychological

Balancing the Physiological and Psychological Areas of Training Sessions for Maximum Gain.

Training techniques vary massively across all sports and athletes worldwide, but examine the contents and actions of elite athletes during training sessions, and you will find there is a balance of importance placed on the physiological make up of the session and the psychological approach to how it is performed.


The Physiological make up of a training plan is endless and some work better than others but all must have the same goal to improve competitive performance on game day. In our sport of paddling, we use shortened intervals of the complete competition distance, with rest periods to mimic the race that we’re currently training for.  This allows the trainer to break down the race duration into shorter, intense intervals with varying periods of rest and performed at paddling speeds above and below the racing pace of that race distance. This practice allows the trainer to increase their physiological conditioning to that race distance and by breaking the race into shorter intervals it allows the athlete time to psychologically experience the feel of every part of the race duration and skills required to successfully complete that race. By using multiple repeats of these intervals and rest periods, it allows the athlete many opportunities to physiologically and psychologically experience racing conditions under less pressure than the competition arena.

“The more times you have been there the easier it will be when you get there.”

The physiological make up of your training plan is endless, but should be a section of your goal race, repeated over months of progressive training loading of volume and different intensities. A successful or proven coach or trainer can help you with that.

The psychological content of your training plan is broken into 4 mental quality is important for a successful performance in sports.

Concentration      Confidence       Control     Commitments


Concentration is the ability to sustain attention on selected stimuli. It can be disrupted by our own thoughts and feelings that distract us.

Intense concentration requires emotional energy.  The harder athletes try to concentrate, the more it can slip away.  Effective concentration is an effortless process.

Concentration comes naturally when the mind is completely consumed with the immediate situation   The athlete becomes absorbed in the competition, paying attention to just the right cues (interval session/intensities zones) to perform well.

Concentration is dynamic, so it constantly shifts from one point to another.  A loss of concentration occurs when attention is divided or shifts to something irrelevant.


Elite athletes often say that confidence is fragile, especially when they compete under pressure. Confidence allows the athlete to focus on essential tasks. Fluctuations can mean the difference between best and worst performances.

Sport research focuses on self-confidence--the belief that one has the internal resources, abilities, and expectations to achieve success.

Researchers break down self-confidence into many sub-categories to study and assess it and its influence on sport performance.  Two basic categories of self-confidence are state and trait.

Trait self-confidence (global) is the degree to which individuals believe in their ability to succeed, in general.

State self-confidence is the belief that they can succeed in a particular moment. In sport, it may be task or skill specific. A well-structured Physiological Training Plan will include skill specific training drills at racing intensities to develop State Self-confidence.


An athlete’s ability to maintain control of their emotions in the face of adversity and remain positive is essential to winning. 

Two emotions, which are often associated with poor performance, are anxiety and anger. Emotions can claim the athlete’s level of concentration and intentional focus. Identifying when you as an athlete feel a particular emotion and understanding the reason for the feeling is an important stage in helping you gain emotional control.

Consequences of emotional responses.  Emotional responses have an impact on performance, whether positive or negative. Some of the effects of sporting performance that can happen with emotional responses.

  • Intrapersonalconsequences may be cognitive, physiological, or motivational. Heightened arousal may affect power, muscular tension, and coordination.
  • Cognitive consequences areintentional focus, information processing, and decision-making. With high physiological arousal, attention narrows to relevant cues or irrelevant cues, which can positively or negatively affect performance.   Anger can prompt greater risk taking in sport situations.
  • Motivational consequences affect the athlete’s desire to perform.  Dysfunctional emotions result in an inappropriate amount of energy. Long term, emotions could influence both persistence and commitment.
  • Commitment
Sport commitment is defined as a psychological state representing the desire or resolves to continue sport participation. 
Factors that affect commitment – enjoyment, personal investments, involvement opportunities, attractive alternatives, social constraints, and social support all influence an athlete’s level of sport participation and commitment. Among those factors, enjoymenthas been the strongest predictor of sport commitment among youth athletes.  They also found that sport enjoyment and involvement opportunities were the strongest predictors of sport commitment for the long haul. 
 It is generally agreed that motivation is a key contributing factor to commitment. Motivation is defined as the psychological energy, or the force that initiates, or directs, and even sustains our behaviors over a period of time. It is the force driving you to choose certain types of behaviors over others.
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