For her, getting to a place where she can safely attempt a dangerous dive requires meticulous mental preparation. “We have a saying about rock climbing: If you’re not afraid, you should not do it,” says Smart. He points out that fear is a natural physiological response to the danger that protects us by raising our awareness and raising our adrenaline. “There is a level of fear that is very important to have,” said Smart, 26, who fell in love with sports psychology as a college diver at UC Berkeley and then earned a master’s degree in sports and exercise science with an emphasis on humanities. performance.
He says the trick to exploiting fear to be useful is to not let it get to the point where you get into a “what would happen” rabbit hole, which will increase your chances of making a mistake. “Having fear, but controlling that fear is the key to our sport,” he says.
Smart has already started the process of checking its nerves for its next big dive, which will take place on June 4. If the conditions are right, he will probably attempt the most difficult dive ever made by a female athlete, while jumping from the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston Harbor. She is the first stop of the 2022 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series and Smart is the only American on the permanent roster.
So how does she get her mind on the right thing to do with what some consider the “original extreme sport”?
Her number one strategy for managing fear
The smart train runs regularly in an Olympic diving pool with a 10 meter high platform, but many of its dives are from 20 meters and up. So much of her education takes place in her head. “The visualization is huge,” he says.
Starting at least a few weeks before a big contest, she will start taking the time to close her eyes and envision herself coming out on the platform. She will imagine exactly what a jump will look like and will think about how she will feel in her body. That way, when it comes time to do a real dive during a competition, you’ll almost feel like he’ve already done it. “It’s not that foreign,” he says.
Research has shown that visualizing yourself as successful can have a positive impact on performance and is a strategy that can work for anyone before a big event – whether it is a marathon or a major job presentation. “Visualization is one of the most powerful techniques for achieving optimal performance because it directly affects our neurology which is essential for the rapid, fluid execution of motor skills, emotion management and coping with stress,” Eric Bean, PhD, CMPC, member of the executive board. of the Association of Applied Sports Psychology, had previously said Well + Good.
Essentially, the imagination of a script quite vividly activates the same neural patterns as the execution of the activity. The more senses you can engage (think about what it looks like, how it sounds, how it smells, etc.), the more dynamically this technique will work.
What it takes to calm the mind
We all know how fast our minds can run in the hours before we do something stressful. Smart stays focused by avoiding Instagram or anything else that reminds her of “real things”. She puts on her headphones to cut off the rest of the world by listening to the same song over and over. (During her last contest, it was Justin Beiber’s “Ghost.”)
Although she used to avoid breathing (“I do not know why, but I hate when people tell me to breathe,” she says with a laugh), Smart now recommends it as a way to calm the nervous system. The technique of the transition is what her coach taught her called box breathing: She breathes for the count of the two, then out for the count of the two, which she repeats while envisioning a box with a different side to light inside or outside. . breathing.
The power to dedicate a moment to yourself
Finally, Smart focuses on itself with a pre-race ritual that puts it on a healthy headspace. “I always go and sit on the edge of the platform, look down and appreciate where I am and what I do,” he says. “For me, this moment is like accepting the fear and danger that comes with the sport I do. But also reminding myself that this is not something new – I’ve been diving since I was 5 years old. hours at the pool and in the gym and I know what I’m doing. “
It is not only a reminder of how prepared she is, but also a moment of gratitude for the opportunity to do something she loves.
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