Warming up is a needed part of any activity. It’s time for your body and mind to wake up to the task at hand. You wouldn’t go running without stretching first, so why would you start playing games without doing warm up as well?
Warming up can be something as simple as looking over the last day’s replays and seeing where you went wrong, if your sport involves more dexterity like DOTA or LOL going in and doing some warm up last hitting, something to shake the rust off and get you in prime form to compete.
I personally start off with some quick 5-minute mindfulness meditation before I jump into looking over VODs or planning out my own practice routine for the day. Warming up allows our attention to shift from the stresses of the world to focusing on the game and our execution there. Doing the meditation gives my brain and body enough arousal to start getting into a state of peak performance.
Peak performance looks different for every player, but we each have an ideal pocket of performance. But, each of us must get a certain amount of motivation or arousal to reach that state. For some of us we like to put on heavy metal music and start rocking against the wall to get to a pumped enough state to really play well. For myself and most of Team Genji a slower more meditative opener is more appropriate. Now the levels are something that you play around with, there are certainly days that I’ll open with meditation and stay with a soft electronic vibe to chill to, but other days if your attention isn’t there I need the help of some Black Flag or Andrew W.K. on my Spotify to bring me up to speed.
Finding the right groove of attention and arousal is known as the Yerkes-Dodson law, which basically says that performance increases with physiological or mental arousal, but up to a point. Too much arousal and your ability to perform a task diminishes greatly.
Ideally, you’re always going to perform in that pocket where arousal is getting you focused and into the game, but not too much that it’s going to take you out of it.
We’ve talked about how to gear up your brain and body to perform and stay in a great place, but what about the times when you are over stimulated? Let’s say you are at an in-person tournament and you are facing down someone with much more experience? Or you have stress from the day you can’t shake?
Two things can be done. The first being that you remove some stimuli/stress from playing. This can be something as simple as not alt-tabbing between the game and something like YouTube, switching music or turning it off totally, or piloting a simpler deck/champion/strategy. Removing stimuli lowers your arousal levels, which allows you to focus on playing with as much focus as you can.
But, sometimes you aren’t in control of the situation, so you must rely on preparation by practicing mental skills regularly before these stimuli happen and take control, which I always recommend. Practicing focus and attentional mental skills allows you to know how to perform even when you are scatter brained or too much information is bearing down on you. Top athletes know how to switch these gears mentally and perform, because they have had the training before the bright lights and cheering crowds to get them ready for competition.
So how about yourself? Everyone’s personal tempo is a little different. So, these are the two big questions I want you to ask yourself. 1) How can I energize myself to get to a peak level of performance by warming up and maintaining that groove? And 2) What are some skills that I can start practicing learning how to switch gears more effectively to increase or reduce my arousal levels?