The Pysche behind the Hike

Posted: December 28, 2012 in Health
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When we engage in physical activity, we know and accept that our muscles are contracting, tendons and ligaments are pulling and being pulled upon and our bone structure is the lever system holding it all together. This is news to no one.What may escape our notice are the underlying psychological processes and mechanisms that either hinder or aid in the physical manifestation of our biomechanical movements. We witness, time and again, the fluid, almost flawless movements of our top athletes and imagine a clockwork mechanic that must be running the show behind the scenes. Although it is almost certain that these elite athletes have progressed to an automatic form of psychomotor performance, they still must think, reason, fear, and worry while they engage in their dance.

Most young and underdeveloped athletes operate at a “cognitive” level when engaging in athletic events. This means that each movement is thought about thoroughly, from the next dribble to the ultimate shot or pass. At this stage of psychomotor reactiveness, athletic prowess is hindered severely and performance suffers. Have you ever wondered why things always seem to go wrong when you are constantly thinking about the outcome or process? This situation is no different. When you are thinking about an act, you tend to focus primarily  on the negative–of what can go wrong. This leaves little room for art and finesse.

With time, practice, and patience, one can ascend to the next level of athletic thinking known as “associative.” This stage is characterized by a more automatic appraisal of movement. The bat may move a bit more fluidly through the air, the shot’s arc may be more natural, and the pass to your wide-out may arrive successfully with little thought. But, you still aren’t quite there yet. You still focus too intently on the game’s outcome or you may count your strides too often. Things are coming far more naturally, but you simply cannot get over that ponderous hump. You are  associative, no more and no less.

And our last stage was previously mentioned as “automatic.” You have seen Wade and James flow down the court as if they were born for basketball and basketball alone. They have laser-like focus and their eyes beam to their one particular goal. Nothing else matters and everything else can wait. They are more than likely part of an elite group of individuals transfixed in the automatic phase. Though this is not intended to imply they are robotic; as everyone fears, but they are so in tune with their movements that it seems to come easy. Not perfect, but damn close.

So there you have it. The three major, accepted stages of psychomotor processes and biomechanical movement. Although, trait anxiety is a big determinant of where you begin and where you will go, Practice is the main predictor of where you will be within any given stage and the amount of drive will shove you from one stage to the next. Happy Lifting!

-Alejandro Lopez, CSCS


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