These stories are not new, and I am sure we have all been to the studio and seen someone panic when asked to do a particular move. Go to any type of competition and you can watch the competitors backstage talking themselves out of doing their best. There is always some level of freaking out when you perform in front of people, but there is always one or two girls/guys that are so totally scared that they talk themselves out of even warming up properly. In yoga class the other day a lady refused to get into a posture that scared her and began crying before the instructor could even get to her and offer and alternative. I had a client refuse to attempt some stretching that we were doing because she was totally terrified that if she got in the stretch, she would get stuck and never be able to get out of it.
So, if we suffer from irrational fears that not only keep us from accomplishing our goals but actually propel us further into actions and behaviors that further the fear, is there any hope? I think so. About the time I developed this theory about irrational fear I began studying people who don’t seem to have these fears to figure out what they are doing different from the rest of us. Luckily for me, I have been able to attend many professional competition in various strength sports through the years. And the lessons I have learned while on my own journey in powerlifting and pole have definitely helped me deal with clients who present me with an irrational fear problem.
Here are some of the things that make an Elite Competitor different from the rest of us, in terms of fear.
#1: I have a buddy from England who was the first person to deadlift over 1,000 lbs. He is an amazing human being. During a competition he just sits and hangs out with his crew. He gets excited when he is lifting something heavy but is totally relaxed when he is not. He is approachable, and he doesn’t deconstruct every lift. If he misses one and you ask what went wrong, he will tell you straight out and then move on.
Lesson: Don’t allow yourself to get freaked out before or during a competition or performance, stay in a calm state as much as possible until you have to start moving. Fear creeps in easily when you start thinking too hard, relax, remember what you have been taught and go for it. If you allow your body to be relaxed, then you will (hopefully) do the right thing.
#2: When you see a performer slip up during their performance you can usually tell immediately how the rest of the piece is going to go. The confident athletes just re-group and go for it. The non-confidant ones or the ones that are all strung out can’t ever seem to recover from an initial wobble and their performance falls apart.
Lesson: Crap will happen, deal with it and move on. Walk away if you have to, but do not try to accomplish something when the fear has set in. Either conquer the fear or take a break.
#3: Even at competitions or showcases you can hear people asking questions, they are always learning. Each Elite competitor knows their weak points and looks to make them better. When a performance is done it is common to hear groups of competitors talking about what they will do differently next time.
Lesson: Train/workout to the best of your ability. When you find a weak spot, or an irrational fear pops up figure out what you can do to get around it. Try to tackle the fear. I hate cross-knee releases, which is why I am doing them every day this month. I also hate doing anything on the spin pole but decided to work on that recently as well. I am challenged by my fear, I never want fear to win. The more you learn about what you are afraid of, the easier it will be to conquer your fear.
Although I used physical activity and training fears as the basis for this article, it is universal to most everything. I have a paperweight on my desk that says “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail”. I would like to change that a little bit and ask:
“What would you attempt to do if only you weren’t afraid”.