1st Timer Event Prep – (2 of 3): DON’T PANIC.
Inevitably, there will come a time during your first Fitness Competition when you’ll have a moment of panic. to be clear – this panic is different from pre-event anxiety that we discussed in our first post in this series. Rather, the panic we’re talking about is that which is experienced during one of the actual Workouts or events, that at best will prevent you from having an optimal performance, or at worst will keep you from finishing. In this post, we’ll analyze some of the reasons WHY we become anxious during a workout, and then discuss strategies you can employ to prevent such thoughts from entering your brain in the first place.
If you’re a member of the CrossFit TT community, you’re participating in an event, and your coaching staff has had any advance knowledge of your intent to participate in said event, then chances are good that you, along with many other members of the community, have tested the WODs (or variants of them) you’ll face on game day SEVERAL times over the course of the last few weeks/months. Such practice can be both a pro and a con: on one hand, you all know what to expect, and you feel confident that you can do the work. On the other, your experience with these types of workouts might potentially lull you into a false sense of security. Because you’ve done similar workouts before, you may not devote much time to your strategy, or worse, underestimate how hard these workouts will be. To be clear – each time you face a workout in a competition in a competition setting, you will be challenged. Are you prepared for these challenges? Absolutely. We’re confident that all of you will do great this weekend, and we’re thrilled to watch you all in action. That said, we also don’t want anyone to be surprised by how gassed they’ll feel after each of these workouts. Case in point – remember 15.5 from the open? You were all WELL prepared for that workout. In the months prior to 15.5, we’d dedicated TONS of time to squatting, and done dozens of workouts that featured heavy posterior-chain squats following a met-con / high aerobic-power output / high-heart-rate workout. When game day came, this work paid off in spades – EVERYONE did phenomenal with this workout; it was our best collective performance as a community of the Open. Yet to a person, everyone who did the workout was ABSOLUTLEY SMOKED when they completed it. This level of exhaustion caught some folks off guard. If we were so well prepared, why did the workout feel so difficult? Because we were so well prepared, we were able to push ourselves MUCH harder than we’d ever been able to in a practice workout. This will be the scenario on Saturday, particularly for those of you for whom this will be your first competition. At some point this weekend, you will inevitably reach a point where you’re working SO hard that it’ll be tempting for you to feel a bit overwhelmed. You may find yourself having an internal dialogue with yourself that sounds something like the following:
- “I’m not even halfway through this workout, and I’m already completely spent. There’s NO WAY I can finish this.”
- “I’m so unprepared for this.”
- “I’ve done DOZENS of workouts like this before, and none of hem have felt this hard. Something must be wrong – I’m just going to stop.”
If and when these thoughts occur, you will have a choice to make. You will either allow yourself to succumb to these thoughts, or you will have the presence of mind to recognize them for what they are (a distraction), will block them out, and continue to work through them. We – your coaches – are there to help ensure that you chose the latter. To help you with these efforts, we’ve listed some thoughts below that we want you to consider when you start to have doubts during a workout. In addition, we’ll also provide you with some preliminary strategies you can employ for each of the workouts (see post III on 1st time event prep). By focusing on these strategies, one can often prevent the onset of mental breakdowns like the ones discussed above.
When anxiety sets in during a workout, try employing the following techniques to get yourself back on track:
- FOCUS ON YOUR BREATHING. Under periods of extreme stress, we tend to short-circuit our body’s natural breathing response. This in turn creates more stress, more tension, and can quickly make a bad situation a lot, lot worse. When you feel overwhelmed, try focusing exclusively on your breathing. Don’t stop working, but rather let the rest of your body go on autopilot, and focus your conscious energy on finding a rhythm with your breathing that will enable you to keep moving. This will in-turn calm your body down, and allow you to find a pace that’ll allow you to get through a sticky part of a workout.
- DON’T BE SURPRISED. The human brain is a pretty remarkable instrument, in that it automatically employs a number of cool little hacks to trick our body into doing things. One such hack: to keep us happy, the brain systematically eliminates the bad-memories that are associated with a particular experience that was positive overall. Said more simply: If you get a PR in a workout, it’s common for your brain to ‘forget’ how hard the workout was when you were doing it, and to instead allow you to remember clearly the euphoria and feelings of joy you felt immediately following the effort. Expect this on Saturday. When you’re in the workout, you may find yourself thinking something along the lines of “this was a lot harder than I remember it.” If this happens, you are correct! You probably don’t remember how hard this effort was the first time you did it! That doesn’t mean that something is wrong, or that you’re not capable of doing the work. It just means that it was harder than you were expecting at a subconscious level – nothing more; nothing less. You are still PERFECTLY CAPABLE of excelling in this environment, as proven by the fact that you’ve done it before…so put the pedal to the metal, and get after it.
- IT SUCKS FOR EVERYONE…BUT IT SUCKS LESS FOR YOU. If you’re struggling with a particular workout, or if you’re feeling absolutely shelled during a particular set of movements, don’t despair. Instead, smile. That’s right – smile. Why? Changes are good that if you’re struggling…then everyone else is struggling, too!! And if there’s when thing that we emphasize in our programming and training, it’s to teach you how to endure when you’re facing incredible odds. This effectively means that you’re at an advantage to the balance of the competition. If you’re struggling…then chances are everyone else is too…which is a situation that you’re well prepared for, relatively speaking. Thus the old adage “Misery loves company!” If it’s a sufferfest, smile…because you’re not alone…which means that you’ll do just fine!!!
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