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Relaxation Techniques

The information presented on this page is adapted from an article by Brook (1993)[1]. A relaxation program should begin with "Getting Loose" and then followed with "Breathing Easy".

Getting Loose

Begin each session as follows

  • Loosen your clothing and remove your shoes
  • Lie down with a pillow under your head (on a bed or on the floor)
  • Lie flat on your back, feet about 12 to 18 inches apart and your arms at your sides
  • Go as limp as you can from head to foot
  • Let your shoulder blades go slightly flat
  • Waggle your feet
  • Settle in with your legs
  • Shake your arms gently, rolling the backs of your hands against the floor
  • Roll your head back and forth

Now begin the "Getting Loose" exercise for each part of your body, as follows

  • Legs
    • Flex the muscles of your left leg by raising it 6 to 10 inches above the floor Point your toes slightly back toward your head. Hold this position of tension for as long as you can, about 10 seconds or so, until you begin to feel the muscles start to tremble. Then, say to yourself 'Leg, let go'. At this point, stop flexing it and let the leg drop. Let the leg rest for another 10 seconds or so, saying to yourself 'I feel the tension flowing out of my leg feels relaxed, warm, heavy... completely relaxed'
    • Repeat the flex-let go-rest procedure for that leg.
    • Run through the entire procedure again for your right leg.
  • Buttocks and thighs
    • Tighten your buttock and thigh muscles, as tightly as you can. Hold them as long as you can - longer than 10 seconds - until you have to let go. Then release them, saying 'Let go', to yourself. Pause for 10 seconds or so and focus your attention on the relaxed feeling in those muscles, on the tension flowing out.
    • Repeat the exercise.
  • Stomach
    • Do the same procedure twice for your abdominal muscles
  • Back and Neck
    • Arch your spine, tightening all along it from your tailbone to your neck, and finish by telling it 'Let go'.
    • Repeat the exercise
  • Arms and Shoulders
    • Imagine there is a bar suspended above you that you want to use to pull yourself up. Raise your hands, palms upward, above your chest. Grab the imaginary bar and clench your fists around it as hard as you can. Flex the muscles in your arms and shoulders. Hunch your shoulders up as tightly as you can. Hold as long as possible and then say 'Let go. ' Rest for 10 seconds or so, soaking up the warm, relaxed feelings, letting the tension flow out.
    • Repeat the exercise
  • Jaw
    • Tighten your jaw muscles, clamping down on your back teeth. Say 'Let go' and relax.
    • Repeat the exercise.
  • Face
    • Tighten your facial muscles into a strong grimace. Say 'Let go'. Rest and focus on the relaxing feeling.
    • Repeat the exercise.
  • Eyes
    • Focus on a point on the ceiling. Without moving your head slowly roll your eyes to the right as far as they will go, then to the centre, then to the left, then back to the centre.
    • Rub the palms of your hands together until you feel the heat. Close your eyes and cover them with your hands. Let the heat warm them. Rest, and tell your eyes 'Let go' and feel the tension flow out as you feel the warmth.
  • Entire body
    • Clench your feet and fists. Pull your shoulders up. Tighten your jaw and face. Now simultaneously flex your entire body, arching yourself as much as you can from your heels to the back of your head. Hold it for as long as you can until you feel your body tremble. Then say 'Let go' - and just let yourself go... all the way, as much as you can.
    • Lie there and feel the tension drain away.
  • Get totally relaxed
    • Close your eyes. Let your attention wander slowly over each part of your body, from legs to face, as you did in the exercise. If any area seems to have some residual tension, tense it. Let you. Feel the tension draining out of you, but do not worry if there is still a little left. Keeping your eyes closed, stay in this relaxed state for the rest of the 10-minute session. Think of a very pleasant, peaceful place. Think of floating in a small boat on a peaceful lake with a soft breeze gently rocking you back and forth, back and forth. Alternatively think of floating in space, lighter than air, weightless. Observe the pleasant, calm feelings. Tell yourself 'I am relaxed now... My legs feel relaxed... My buttocks, thighs, and abdomen feel relaxed... My back arms, shoulders, jaws, face and eyes feel relaxed... The tension has been let go. '

Focus your relaxed feelings

Now begin to focus this relaxation on your event. Tell yourself 'When I am running, and I begin to feel tension gripping some muscles, I will be able to tell those muscles "Let go", saying "Let go" will recall the relaxed feeling I feel now and will release the tension from those muscles.'

Breathing Easy

Having completed the "Getting Loose" exercises remain lying on your back. Carry out the "Breathing Easy" exercise for 10 minutes, as follows

  • Inhale
    • Inhale slowly and deeply, filling your chest with air, counting four seconds to yourself 'One and two and three and four'. The count is to give you a nice and easy, even pace. Try to breathe as fully as you can without discomfort. Imagine your chest slowly filling with air, from your diaphragm to your collar.
  • Hold breath
    • When you have inhaled fully, hold your breath for another four seconds, again counting to yourself 'One and two and three and four'. This should be just a comfortable pause. Do not do it until you are blue in the face.
  • Exhale
    • Exhale - but do not blow. Just let the air out through your mouth slowly saying to yourself 'Easy...easy... easy... easy.' Let out as much air as you can, down to the lower part of the lungs. Feel yourself relaxing as you do. Feel your shoulders, chest and diaphragm letting go. As you exhale, think of the tension flowing out of you.

Do not worry if the sequence is not exact or the cadence perfect. It may seem a bit difficult to stay with at first, but just keep going. The important thing is to establish the slow relaxed breathing rate. After the ten cycles, your breathing rate will be automatically slower, and you can dispense with the "one and two and three and four" cadence.

Now do as follows:

  • Inhale - Breath in fully.
  • Hold breath - Hold it very briefly.
  • Exhale - Let the air out slowly (do not blow), saying mentally 'Easy... easy... easy... easy ' with each exhalation.
  • Repeat this cycle ten times.

You will soon begin to feel a calm, thoroughly pleasurable feeling - some say a warmth radiating from your chest throughout your body

Now let yourself breathe normally and tell yourself relaxing phrases 'I feel very relaxed... All the tension is going out of me as I exhale, and good feelings are coming into me as I inhale... When I am playing my sport, I will be able to take a few deep breaths and by saying, "Easy " will be able to tell myself to relax whenever I feel overly tense... When I am playing, I will recall the good feelings I am experiencing now, and they will automatically return to me. Imagine all this happening as you say it to yourself.

Now do as follows:

  • Inhale - Breathe in slowly
  • Hold breath - Hold it very briefly
  • Exhale - Let the air out slowly while mentally saying to yourself 'Easy... easy... easy... easy.'
  • Repeat this cycle ten times.

Now let your breathing go naturally and pay attention to the pleasant feelings in your body. Repeat the same encouraging phrases to yourself that you did earlier. Listen to the sound of your own breath coming in and out. You will notice that the breathing is slow and deep without you having to make it that way. The exhaling will last longer - as long as an eight-count, perhaps.

Continue to do the breathing exercises for the rest of the session, each time alternating the ten cycles of inhale-hold-exhale with the mental encouragement. After the last cycle of ten, just let yourself enjoy the feeling for a minute.


Tell yourself for the rest of the day I will recall these sensations every time I tell myself 'Easy' (or a word/phrase you prefer to use).


  1. BROOK, N. (1993) How to prepare athletes to maintain control in high-level competition. Athletics Coach, 30 (3), p. 10-19

Related References

The following references provide additional information on this topic:

  • SOLBERG, E. E. et al. (2000) Stress reactivity to and recovery from a standardised exercise bout: a study of 31 runners practising relaxation techniques. British journal of sports medicine, 34 (4), p. 268-272
  • CAIRD, S. J. et al. (1999) Biofeedback and relaxation techniques improve running economy in sub-elite long distance runners. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise
  • WILLIAMS, J. M. E. (1993) Applied sport psychology: Personal growth to peak performance. Mayfield Publishing Co.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (1998) Relaxation Techniques [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

Related Pages

The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: