Ahead of her Commonwealth Games events in April, we asked Michelle Jenneke if we’ll be seeing the pre-race dance that earnt her viral status in 2012. (The routine, if you recall it, clocked up a cool 27 million views – and counting.)
In fact, you might have noticed at the Winter Olympics – or any televised sporting event, prior – it’s not unusual for sports stars to have a ‘ritual’ of sorts, before they compete.
As we’ve previously reported, “Usain Bolt points to the sky before breaking yet another world record and Michael Phelps blasts Eminem to fire him up before hitting the pool” but for Jenneke it’s not the dance that made her famous she uses to ‘get in the zone’ – it’s actually a series of other rituals.
“We all stand behind our blocks before [we compete] and when I get called, I walk forward, I jump three times, I shake my legs out three times and then flick my hair up,” she tells myBody+Soul.
“That’s what I consider my routine to be, but before we race, we can be out there for, like, 10 minutes or so – it’s pretty boring, you’re standing out there, waiting – and you can make yourself really nervous, so I just try stay relaxed.”
It’s easier said than done – even though it’s certainly sound advice – but actually, why do athletes swear by these weird rituals pre-race? (And should we be doing something similar, before an important work presentation or a high-pressure exam?)
“On some level, these ‘pre-race superstitions’ are a means for the athletes to help sink themselves into the present moment,” says Nikki Janks, co-founder of Centred Meditation, Australia’s first secular meditation studio.
“A form of mindfulness if you will. A reminder to plug into ‘The Now’ and align mentally, emotionally and physically for the race to come
“In the lead up to some sort of a ‘big-deal’ situation, our mind often goes haywire contemplating all the possible things that could go wrong, which sends our body into fight-or-flight mode, which is why we start to perspire, our tummy feels off, our heart races and our breathing increases.”
It’s a sensation we can all relate to – usually, on a smaller scale than an Olympic 100m Hurdle – and if there’s a weird ritual you find, like Jenneke, gets you in the zone, we say why not?