THE BLOG

Fitness and Friday the 13th Superstitions

09/11/2013 10:34 pm ET | Updated Nov 11, 2013

Superstitions abound in the fitness world. They usually evolve accidentally when an athlete has a good -- or sometimes bad -- performance and then attempts to establish cause and effect by reviewing the facts of the performance.

Formerly inconsequential activities, like what they ate or wore, are examined as possible connections to the victory, especially if it's unusual, like with baseball great Moises Alou, who urinated on his right hand prior to stepping up to the plate, which he claimed help him control the bat.

Tennis superstar Serena Williams said she lost the French Open because she didn't tie her laces right, didn't bounce the ball five times and didn't have her extra dress or her shower sandals with her.

If you are a golf fan, maybe you've noticed that Tiger Woods always wears red on Sundays of tournaments.

I don't have proof, but I read that basketball legend Michael Jordan never played a game for the Chicago Bulls without his UNC shorts underneath his uniform.

Wade Boggs never stepped on the baseball diamond without eating chicken beforehand, which is a whole lot of chicken, considering that there are 162 games each year. He also entered the batting cage at exactly 5:17 pm, ran sprints at 7:17 pm and wrote the word "chai" in the dirt before each at-bat.

It may sound silly, but research has shown that superstitions can have a placebo effect on physical performance. If you feel your current superstitions help you maintain your focus and confidence, then keep doing what you are doing. When you believe in a ritual, your mind becomes focused and more relaxed. Then you are able to concentrate on mechanics and technique, which allows your mind and body to sync up. Some people call it the zone, which is when all athletes perform their best.

Beliefs are just thoughts we keep thinking over and over again. If you know that peeing on your hand will get you to first base, then you probably will get a hit. Doctors have always known how critical belief is to healing. In drug trials, placebo pills confound the researchers by often getting as good of a patient result as an actual drug.

Confidence and comfort are key components of athletic success. Being relaxed can allow your mental performance to improve your physical effort. Think of it as getting out of your own way. Sports psychology is based on visualizing all the details of winning as a technique to prepare both mentally and physically for competition. Superstitions can free up your mind to do just that.

So go ahead, pee on your hands, bark like a dog and turn your t-shirt inside out if it gives you the confidence to step onto the field believing that you will win.

Just don't let your mother see you do it.