I’m baa-aack… And setting a really unsustainable precedent: multiple blog posts in a week! But I have to get this out there. I have some competitions coming up and I can feel the nervous excitement building. With 2 years of competing in Crossfit under my belt (and many before that doing endurance events), I suppose some would consider me a ‘seasoned’ competitor. But compared to many who have been at Crossfit for 6, 7, 8 years, I am still a novice competitor, and I definitely feel that way in the heat of the moment.
There are so many aspects of competing to explore, but what I want to address today is the mental preparation that goes into competition. And really when I say competition, this could be competition at any level, whether that is a Crossfit Open workout, a benchmark workout, a time trial or foot race, or even just a class workout that has you nervous. If you’ve ever faced a situation where you are ranked based on your score or you are going up against a previous personal record, you know what I’m talking about! As a naturally competitive person, I feel the excitement and nerves of competition quite frequently in the class setting.
Regardless of the situation, there are several techniques that I’ve adopted that have helped me approach workouts where my nerves come into play. First and foremost, I remind myself that competing at all is a privilege! It is all for fun and if it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing. Nonetheless, to calm the jitters, it helps me to tell myself that it really IS just another workout, and that I have done all the work I could possibly have done to prepare. At the sound of “3-2-1 Go,” I relax and treat it just like any other day at the gym and do the best I can for that day.
In cases where I know the workout in advance, I like to think about the workout, about times I’ve done other workouts like it and develop a plan. I actually have a lot of fun doing this! Factors that influence the plan include workout duration and how I should pace myself given the time domain; the movements themselves, the weight, sequence and number of repetitions of each movement also influence that plan. Once I have a plan in mind, I will actually rehearse it in my head. I visualize myself doing the workout according to plan, imagining how I might feel and – THIS IS IMPORTANT – recalling what I will tell myself when things get hard and all I want to do is stop. This is really important because chances are, if you are going hard, you will get to this point! In a split second, in a moment of weakness, things can go drastically wrong, if you are not prepared for it. For me, being aware of this, visualizing myself reaching that point, recalling my mantra and carrying on, has been a game changer. I will change up the specific words depending on how I’m feeling, but recently the simple statement “you got this” has been my go to.
If you are lucky you might even have time to test the plan in advance, or in the case of benchmark workouts, you might have notes from the last time you did the workout (a topic for another post, but in short, do yourself a favor and take notes on your workouts!) But that isn’t always the case. When it’s go time, you just have to go for it – be confident and stick to your plan. Dig deep and listen to your body. Know that there are times when the plan you develop just doesn’t work! Maybe your grip gives out sooner than you think or your plan was too conservative and you can go harder, faster or do more reps than you planned. As important as it is to have a plan, being flexible and in touch with your body is just as important. It’s ok if you have to change your strategy. That said, I do recommend making a mental revision and coming up with a new plan, as opposed to winging it!
Ultimately, good day or bad, I like to remind myself that whatever the outcome, it is a blip on the radar, just a snapshot in time. If I have done my best for that day, I can call it a good day. Those are days to savor. There have been occasions where that is just not the case – when I’ve been mentally defeated early in a workout, or missed a lift I should have made. The best way to manage times like this is to make a mental note of what went wrong, learn from it and move on.
The last point I’ll make is you’ll notice I never once referred to my performance with respect to other competitors. I feel fortunate in that I’m really only competitive with myself. Sure, it’s nice to make it to the podium or the leaderboard, but when it comes down to performance, my focus is really entirely on myself. That is the only thing I can control, so worrying about others is truly a waste of energy!
I will be back after this weekend with some post-competition thoughts and of course, analysis. Until then, send your positive vibes my way! And if you have thoughts or other competition mental prep that helps you, please share!