Managing Competition Readiness and Anxiety
Author: Amanda Allen Date Posted:18 June 2013
On Sunday I competed in South Australia's CrossFit competition FitWars. It got me thinking about how different athletes manage the stresses and pressures of competition - both on the day and in the lead-up to an event. While one athlete thrives, the next one suffers - in response to the same external stimuli. It's never so much a result of what's happening on the outside, so much as what's happening on the inside, that creates the 'heaven or hell'!
15 years ago when I was a professional triathlete I experienced extreme discomfort and anxiety leading into every competition - over a week out from an event it would begin to build. I'd try to stay out of my own head, keep busy, not think about the upcoming race; adrenaline and fear would have me in their grip - it was exhausting. I'd always go to the movies the night before the big event, just to escape from myself and my crazy head full of fear.
The overall impact and experience of my anxiety back then was extremely destructive and harmful - not ideal for peak performance or enjoyment! These days I do experience some anxiety leading into events - but it is more a sensation of readiness - my mind and body charging themselves ready to fight the fight. A reasonable response in preparation for an imminent battle.
Overcoming Anxiety - Embrace The Process!
So what can you do to manage and tame the beast of competition anxiety? Personally I have to keep it about the process - never about the outcome. If I stay in process I have control and I have a level of certainty. As soon as it's about outcome I am powerless, I have neither control nor certainty. Process (for me) begins way before I turn up for an event. It's in everything I do to prepare myself to be my best on any given day, so that I may confidently face any challenge, threat, obstacle or adventure that might come my way! Process is about being my best - nothing to do with anyone else. It's about the food I put into my body, the supplements that I take, the quality of training and recovery that I practice, it's about how I face my fears and the stories that I tell myself every day. I have to practice overcoming my fears on a daily basis - I practice laughing at them and the lies they want me to believe! I imagine it a bit like laughing at the devil on my shoulder...he's a liar, trying to destabilise me - make me weaker! A sense of humour really, really helps me stay balanced and strong!
Being My Best
My best on competition day is measured by intrinsic measures. How did I manage my fears; how well did I warm up; how hard did I push myself; we're there any gaps in my commitment and determination to doing the next rep; did I hold back; did I rest too long between movements; could I have stayed calmer; did I warm down well; did I fuel and hydrate myself to the best of my ability; did I smile and enjoy myself; was I able to genuinely interact with the other competitors and want the best for them; did I offer my experience to the younger female athletes; did I set a good example to others?
When I think and act with these things as my priorities, I am able to keep a healthy perspective, which totally transforms my competition experience from one of anxiety (winning - outcome focus - powerlessness) to one of enjoyment (personal growth - process focus - control). Managing competition anxiety takes practice - and this practice takes place every day, in every challenge you face - lifting heavy things, raising children, human relationships, nutrition - you name it! 3,2,1...go!