If you’ve been working hard, those nerves might mean the opposite — you’re going to do great:
Before the fall swim season, fourteen members of the women and men’s Northwestern University Swim and Dive Team completed online ratings of how tense they feel in general. Over the course of two months, the swimmers rated their feelings of tension each week. One day before competitions, participants also rated their tension. The researchers also noted the participants’ actual performance at their meets: four dual meets and one mid-season invitational.
The results of the study showed that feelings of tension in general and the week before meets were not associated with swimming performance. However, when swimmers felt higher levels of tension the night before a meet, they achieved faster times in their heats the following day.
As Olympic swimmers prepare for some of the most important moments in their careers, they are likely to feel tension the night before they compete. They might take some comfort in the finding that these feelings could shave those infinitesimal yet all-important fractions of a second off their times.
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