“Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game” – Babe Ruth
We all get scared. Whether it be a spider in the kitchen or a snake on a plane (terrible movie) we all have fear. Fear is normal. Usually, it is there to protect us, like when we have a fear of heights. However, it can also be completely illogical, like having a fear of butterflies.
Why does this matter? Fear can be crippling. It can stop us doing so many things, but when it comes to Weightlifting or CrossFit it can actually cause our progress to halt. Each and every athlete experiences some kind of fear or anxiety on some level. Have you ever walked up to the barbell and thought “this is heavy” or gone to a competition only to see an event with a movement you cannot do? Have you ever felt your heart race or a wave of anxiety flood your body? Some say this is excitement, but most likely it is fear. Excitement should feel more like you are dying to get out on the floor. Fear feels like you are drowning.
Many people fail to understand the complex connection between the body and mind. Sometimes, more often than not, we don’t realize that this is a highly interrelated relationship, meaning that the actions and responses they experience have a huge effect on both entities. When you experience fear it has a direct and substantial effect on the body’s response and. a lot of the time, the resulting experience is negative which only strengthens the fear. It can be a vicious cycle.
Fear can breed a negative mindset. It fosters doubt, lack of trust, and reluctance. An athlete’s body is important in order to move and train, but the mind is at the base of the pyramid of success. If your mind is riddled with negative emotions, like fear, then your body will be tense and slow. That is not a body that is geared towards success.
I’m sure we have all heard of the mind-body connection. For those of you who have not, it means that our thoughts and attitudes can positively or negatively affect our biological functioning. There is was a paper put forward by James Loehr called the “Ideal Performance State” in which he suggests that there are a certain emotional/psychological/mental states that have an extreme effect on the body thus having effects on performance.
“Understanding how various feeling states impact performance levels and, specifically, the exact nature of those feelings which are positively related to high-level performance could be of considerable value in the psychological training of athletes” (Loehr, 1983).
Think about your own training. When you are in a workout or a competition that you are confident with you have no fear. You are ready to go and you push yourself hard. Now, flip that to a workout or a weight that you are unsure of. Maybe there is a movement you cannot do, or the weight is either close to or above your one rep max. Speaking from experience, FVT 2017 one of the events opened with a 50ft handstand walk. I can honestly say I have never felt more scared of failure in all my life. I was terrified, and guess what? I did fail, not because I totally fell on my butt about a thousand times, but because I let fear drown me.
Fear is crippling and it is a very difficult emotion to master. To make matters worse, the only person responsible for how you show up on game day is you. Remember that fear is just a perception. It is something we make up ourselves. It is purely an emotion that we tag on to certain situations that are based on a perception of that situation, most likely rooted in past experiences. Most of the time, fear is negative, and if we think back to that mind-body connection a negative mind means a poor performance. It is imperative that we take control of this emotional response and overcome our fear. Once we do that, then we become unstoppable.