The Roots of Competition Can Make You Fly!

Over the past few years, I’ve consistently seen athletes who felt really challenged by pre-race, or pre “event” (work/life, etc.) anxiety levels end up having a tough time getting the most out of themselves during competition.  By reframing that anxiety into excitement, they were able to feel far more free on race day, and perform better.

But one other key point seems to really cement that reframing approach.  This is a concept I first read in 1999, and which really altered my view (for the better) of what competitive sport was.  Psychologists Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi and Susan Jackson described in their book, Flow in Sports, that the term competition came from the Latin “Con Petire” meaning: “to search together”.  Csikszentmihalyi and Jackson go on to discuss how competition then, is not about grading yourself or vanquishing/beating others.  At its root, competition is about searching out your best through the help of your peers!

When we are reminded of this key point, we can clear a lot of the anxiety which is generated through the perception that our race times/placings create our value as an athlete.  Likewise, we are reminded that sport is about seeking, growing and personal evolution.  We can recognize how important it is to hold our competition with gratitude – without them, we would not grow as much! 

If you feel that you experience a level of anxiety before races or other performances, certainly start out by reframing that emotion into excitement for the event… But then further that, by remembering that at its root, sport is about growth.  That shift in thinking will improve your enjoyment of sport and will free you up to perform your best!

Using mindfulness to perform your best

I’ve had a surprising amount of feedback from athletes who attended my talk at RaceMania yesterday and from other attendees both after the talk, and via email today.  Most of that feedback was focused on my discussion of mindfulness and the very positive impact that practice has on, well, everything!  That said, one of my responses really provided a good reminder on how to apply mindfulness in sport or life to improve mental, and physical performance.  I felt that point could really help any athlete, and it breaks a long string of "writers block" here on the Tri-Hard blog!:

Here’s a slide from the mindfulness part of my talk at RaceMania yesterday:

 In that picture, it looks like my buddy Pete is falling into the bowls of earth J… But, the reality, is that he’s laying down in a tube you ride through on a trail in Sedona AZ.  He and his wife thought it would be funny and “staged” the pic!  Amazing how that info changes the perspective of the image isn’t it…  

 Mindfulness is not just for monks meditating on a misty mountain.  It doesn’t need to be complex at all.  And implementing it can be a huge positive boom to our experience as athletes, but more so, as people.

 Here’s the simple trick.

 Recognize the sticky point you are experiencing.

Acknowledge it is happening – without assigning it value.  Just acknowledge it’s there – not bad or good.

Get curious about what you can do – what’s possible now?

Move on.

 So, say last week you were having a bad patch.  It happens.  But those emotions hit you and at some point, you recognize those emotions.  At that point, you can contract down into further negativity (“this is frustrating, why do I do this – it’s to hard… I’m never going to enjoy this…”) or, you can choose to expand into possibility. (“this is frustrating… yep, it is.  You know what though, there’s no reason it should always be any given way.  I wonder what I can do now?”)  See the difference there? 

For example:

Recognize the sticky point: “Man, this feels so hard, this is messed up, what the he**…”

Recognize it: “it’s a challenge, but…”

Get curious: “Wait a minute, why should this feel easy?  Lets think about this for a second.”

Whats possible: “what if I just go with it?  What if I just focus on what I can do well right now?”

Move on: “Lets try that for 10 phone poles…”

This week, if you feel resistance, a sticky point, when you are training – as soon as you recognize it, acknowledge it is there, get curious, expand your thinking to look at what’s possible and move on.

 That doesn’t make something hard easy.

 It’s absolutely NOT pretending something isn’t happening.

 It’s just keeping the context in place and choosing what to do with it.  Choose wisely, because your perception is literally what takes your reality from a situation, and turns it into an experience.

The cool thing, is that you can practice any time you feel a sticky point.  Crazy driver cuts you off in traffic – perfect.  Long lines at the store – great.  Suddenly, everything is a chance to grow, a positive.

Have a super day!

Will

Thank You!

We have been fortunate to work with amazing athletes over the last year – it’s been fun and exciting! 

As we reflect on 2015, one thing that stands out is the resilience we saw in folks.  For example, a few athletes had life events that eliminated their ability to take part in goal races.  The spirit they carried through that challenge was fantastic and inspiring - true examples of being focused on the process of growing!

Several folks took on their first ironman which is a huge challenge to accomplish for busy professionals with families… Yet we got to see these folks keep family strong, work efficiently and race Ironman!  Well done!

Likewise, seeing so many of you PR and accomplish things you worked at for years (Kona Qualify, Boston Qualify, race/medal/win regional, national and world championships) has been inspiring.

As coaches, we get to work with you in an area of your life that’s enjoyable.  An area that’s fun.  A personal passion.  And when you invited us to be your coaches, you gave us the chance to support you and be a part of your personal growth team.  It’s exciting, and it’s an honor!

Our hope is that we can help you continue making sport a positive part of your life, and that you continue to grow athletically and personally in the coming year.  We are here to help!  Keep us posted with questions.  Be curious.  Be adaptable.  Keep loving the adventure you are on! 

Thank you for inviting us to help you on that adventure.  We are grateful for the opportunity and we are excited to see what 2016 brings!

Enjoy the holidays and have a happy and healthy start to the new year!

Be well,

Will & Jason