It’s that time of year again. If someone put me in a dark hole for several months and I lost track of the time and date, I would still be able to tell you what season it is based on the countless numbers of emails, questions and texts I am getting based on Dave Castro's Instagram posts. Yep, the Open is coming and anxiety is running high around the CrossFit™ community. For many of the athletes who have been with Training Think Tank this time of year is like any other, but for those of you who are new to our brand or those who are simply readers of our blogs this time of year may be extremely stressful. As the pressure of competition builds, I wanted to share three valuable tips that will help you better prepare mentally for the Open experience.
You’ve done all the work.
I first heard the saying “the hay is in the barn” from an old football coach while still playing city league football. At 10 or 11 years old, I didn’t really know what it meant, but now the meaning resonates with me. The phrase is meant to signify farmers who have completed all the hard work of harvesting their fields and are fully prepared for the coming winter. There is nothing left for them to do. In the same way, coaches often use the phrase to signify that all the work (preparation) is done, now it is time to compete. In other words, the athlete has done all they can do to prepare for their event or game and now it is time to focus on the task at hand. In the same way, you have done all the work you can to prepare for the Open. What you have done over the past off-season, whether good or bad, will come out at 3,2,1...go. At this point there is nothing you can do to change the outcome of the five events from a training perspective, so stop worrying about it. Trust that your preparation and hard work leading up to this point has given you the ability to reach your goals in this year’s Open.
Control what you can control.
You can’t control what others post on the leaderboard (unless you want to pull a Tonya Harding), so stop worrying about it and control what you can control. Don’t get caught up in what others are doing, how they warm-up, what they post on Instagram or how they perform. Instead, stay focused on what you can do to get your best performance. Here are a few things you can do:
Control your emotions: Your emotions are almost always a byproduct of your thoughts. If you allow yourself to be distracted by thoughts of others you will almost certainly lose track of what you need to be focused on most - how YOU should execute the workout at hand. When your thoughts go astray, your emotions soon follow. Often I see athletes create anxiety, fear and a sense of being inadequate because of negative thoughts inside their own head. This season, learn how to control your emotions by only concerning yourself with how you prepare for your workouts.
Control your actions: Your actions are also often directly tied into your thoughts and/or emotions. When you think negative thoughts, your actions soon follow in a similarly negative fashion. If you feel inadequate, anxious, or fearful your actions may demonstrate those same emotions, which may lead to underperformance when it should be time to perform your best. Take control. Be conscious of how you act. Instead of worrying about others around you, be intentional about your warm-up, how you train, and the way you prepare your body for performance.
Control your energy: Learn how to focus your energy. If you are preparing for a 1-RM, your energy levels should be high and your mind should be on “alert”. If you are preparing for a 30min AMRAP where control of your heart rate and respiration play a major factor in success, your energy levels may need to be a little bit lower and focused more on proper pacing than getting amped. Regardless of the atmosphere, control your energy to suit your optimal performance.
Stay in the moment - control what you can control. Those that get caught up in what others are doing lose sight of their own ability and will often play the comparison game instead of reaching their best potential. Focusing on outside circumstances will only deter you from your ultimate goals and do NOTHING to enhance your performance.
Don’t be tied to any outcome.
Effort is a choice, winning is not. There will be times when your very best effort will earn you a victory and others where your very best effort may earn you last place. In either circumstance, don’t be tied to the outcome. Instead, tie yourself to your effort, will, determination and sacrifice. Judge your performance based on the effort you gave in preparation and execution, and not on the outcome of placement. Go into each Open workout with the mindset you are going to give your all, that you will push through the very end, and even if you don’t win, you will perform to the best of your ability. Steve Prefontaine, a legendary track and field star, once said: “somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it”. In his classic style, he was confident, yet humble. In the same way, be confident with your abilities, but concern yourself with how you perform and not those around you. Give your best effort and push yourself to the very end. If you succeed in giving your best, you’ve done all you can do. For some of you, your very best will earn you a qualifying spot at regionals or another trip to the games, while others very best may be finishing in the top 2,000 of their region. In both cases, let EFFORT dictate your sense of victory and not the leaderboard.
From my experience, the Open, or any other competition for that matter, has become a point of great anxiety for many athletes. Instead of embracing the enjoyment of competition, athletes tend to get caught up in a plethora of external factors that shouldn’t affect them at all. If this is you, take a few more minutes to read over the three points I wrote above and take them to heart. The Open is an opportunity to test yourself on a large platform against your peers. Embrace the challenge - know the training is done, control what you can control and don’t tie yourself to any outcome. Let your effort be your guide.