Sports Psychology: Jonathan Fox – In The Zone!

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Swimming PsychologyParalympic gold medal winner Jonathan Fox has an interesting pre-race routine to help him get into the zone before his races. He plays with a Rubik Cube.

Fox looks to block out any distractions in the final minutes before his races by turning to the Rubik’s cube that has accompanied him across the world for the past six years.

The 21-year-old was given a cube by his grandmother before his first World Championships in South Africa in 2006. Since then, it has travelled the world with Fox, who has honed his skill at solving the puzzle to the extent he has it down to one minute and 30 seconds.

The reason that this is a good pre-race routine for the gold medallist, is that the cube blocks out distractions. In other words, by focusing exclusively on the cube, he cant get concerned by pre-race doubts and uncertainties. The ‘what if’s’, that can pre-occupy athletes before a big event. Eg what if I don’t get off to a good start; what if my competiton are on top form; etc

Jonathan is clearly very accomplished at the Rubix Cube. Because it is something he is good at, aligning the cube gives him a feeling of self confidence and assurance before the race. It’s akin to sub-consciously saying, I can solve the mental enigma of the Rubik’s Cube…therefore I can just as adeptly solve the physical challenge of winning Paralympic Gold. I’m a good problem solver. And therefore a winner!

Jonathan talks of the cube zoning him out. What he means is that he is able to get into a high level of concentration that both relaxes him and ensures a high quality of focus. He is mentally contained and not dispersed, which is critical when you want to draw on all the energy that has been stored up in preparation for the big race.

It’s the ideal mental state for competition. Thus when he steps onto the blocks, he is already tuned into the task in hand.

Playing with the cube is great for balancing the right and left side of the brain. The task calls for logic and creativity. So when he is ready to swim, he is mentally nicely balanced. Transfer this into swimming and you have clear strategy and a flowing rhythm. So it’s easy to see why it’s perfect preparation for Jonathan!