Men’s Fitness Magazine – May 11, 2003 – Kevin Beck – Control your anger for a better workout: nine ways to keep a bad temper from sapping your performance –

While some guys believe anger helps build up the explosive power they need to lift a hunk of metal over and over, that’s largely a myth. In most cases, sports psychologists now say, getting riled up will ultimately produce apathy and a loss of momentum. “Research indicates that anger and aggression are actually associated with increased `arousal’ and a sense of defeat,” says Wayne Hurr, Ph.D., a psychologist at Georgetown University who has counseled numerous Olympic track athletes. “Contrary to what was once believed, venting anger doesn’t lead to catharsis–it simply leads to more anger.”

“Anger from frustration or failure can have a negative effect on performance,” adds Joseph Mintah, Ed.D., an assistant professor in the physical education department at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California and an elite-level soccer player. While working out isn’t as much of a “fitness” activity as, say, running or tennis, it still requires concentration. According to Mintah, anger makes it much more difficult to achieve the focused state that bears the best results in the weight room or on the playing field.

By dispensing with anger and negative thoughts, you can improve your strength and form, resulting in faster muscle growth and a lower risk of injury. Here’s how:

1. If seeing red is affecting your performance, Hurt suggests using “diffusion strategies” to promote relaxation while enhancing concentration. These include:

* Breathing deeply

* Finding more positive

* Forgiveness (of yourself or someone else, depending on whom you’re mad at)

2. Keep an “anger log.” Simply write down any feelings of anger, or any other negative thought patterns, along with how well you do in your training. Eventually, you’ll come to see exactly when and how getting mad affects your performance.

3. Before hitting the gym, the track or the basketball court, visualize the physical exertion as a method of processing excess energy. You’ll often find that your mood improves greatly after you’ve been sweating for a while.

4. When you’re angry with yourself, turn your focus to what you’re going to do next, says John F. Murray, Ph.D., a former tennis pro and a sports psychologist in West Palm Beach, Fla. This will keep you from dwelling on mistakes you’ve just made.

5. Recognize that negative “self-talk” is lethal to performance. Murray suggests that when you catch yourself having angry or defeatist thoughts, consciously substitute a positive notion, such as I can do it or I feel strong.

6. When anger becomes paralyzing, do something to free yourself from it, Murray says. Count to 10, tie your shoelaces, take deep breaths, recite your favorite song lyrics.

7. If there are situations that have caused you to be angry in the past, sit down in a quiet room and “revisualize” them: Go through the entire event in your mind, and imagine yourself handling things in a more positive way.

8. Use cue words or phrases to change your mood, suggests Mintah. When you’re visualizing or actually in the midst of a great performance, think of a phrase you’d like to associate it with, such as “relax,” “powerful” or “eyes on the ball.” The next time anger is sapping your concentration, think of the phrase to bring yourself back into focus.

9. Resist the urge to judge how well you’re doing while you’re in the middle of a game or workout, Mintah says. That way, you’ll avoid becoming annoyed with yourself for a poor performance, whether real or imagined. Practice all these techniques, and your performance in the gym or on the playing field is likely to improve. And then, of course, you won’t have a whole lot left to be angry about.