From saunas to sleep, six Pan Am Games medal contenders share their psych strategies.
For six athletes with eyes on the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games, elite sport isn’t all cardio and weights. Mind and body restoration can help keep a young athlete from flaming out come competition day.
“I like to reflect on the past competition by watching film of the game and talking to my dad on his perspective of how I played and how the game went. I also like to spend time by myself and read a variety of books. Reading gives me an outlet away from basketball to relax my mind and to give myself the chance to refresh before having to focus again for competition.” —Natalie Achonwa
“I go for acupuncture and massage and take Epsom salt baths to help my body recover. I also go to the sauna twice a week. It helps take the toxins out of my body and helps replenish my muscles. It also helps me drop water weight, because usually I am around 71 kilos, so it just helps me get into the 69 category.
My training is very important, but the recovery is just as important. I also like to watch videos of other female weightlifters while I train. It motivates me. I can see myself lifting among them.” —Maya Laylor
“Before a game, I need to do a lot of laps around the court to get myself set and ready. I don’t really count them; I do them until I feel like I’m warmed up. If I don’t do those laps, then I don’t feel focused and my
mind is wandering. So I take that time to think and get myself ready. It gets my arms ready and my heart rate up to where it needs to be so that I’m awake and aware on the court.” —Melanie Hawtin
“I get a minimum of eight hours of sleep. That’s such an important part of your recovery. At practice, I’m essentially breaking down my muscles, so sleep is when I’m building up all the damage I’ve done throughout the day. And ice baths bring down your core body temperature and any inflammation.” —Phylicia George
“I train 25 to 30 hours a week. I train like a swimmer, like a cyclist and like a runner. Before races, I like to hang out with my parents. They travel a lot to see me compete. If they are not there, I like to call them the morning of. A few hours before the race, I relax and close my eyes, focus on my breathing and visualize my race.” —Amélie Kretz
“You have to be in the moment. Being a pentathlete is equivalent to being the ideal soldier: We can protect ourselves with a gun or a sword, move through land and water, and ride any horse. We compete around the world; a local organization provides a pool of horses and we draw for one out of a hat. Then you get a timed 20-minute period and five practice jumps before you and your new partner have to perform. Horses are very sensitive. As soon as you sit on the horse, it knows a hundred things about you. The more relaxed you are, the more in tune you’ll be.” —Melanie McCann
SPORT: WEIGHTLIFTING HOMETOWN: TORONTO, ONT.
SPORT: WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL HOMETOWN: OAKVILLE, ONT.
SPORT: TRACK AND FIELD HOMETOWN: MARKHAM, ONT.
SPORT: TRIATHLON HOMETOWN: BLAINVILLE, QUE.
SPORT: BASKETBALL HOMETOWN: GUELPH, ONT.
SPORT: PENTATHLON HOMETOWN: MOUNT CARMEL, ONT.