I get a kick out of people telling me they hear my voice in their heads. This usually happens, I’m told, during the tail end of a race, when athletes hit an incline or feel fatigue set in. What they usually hear me saying is some variation of “LEAN!” “No shuffling!” or “Don’t forget to breathe.” I like hearing about those moments because they indicate that my reminders about form actually pay off.
We talk about good form a lot – safety and injury prevention are, after all, top priorities. Good form requires active attention, especially when you are first learning it, and especially when you are battling fatigue. You have to live a little in your head. You have to think about what you are doing to make sure you’re doing it correctly.
There are times, however, when all that thought and attention comes in direct conflict with your trust – both in yourself and in your coach. When that happens, no matter how hard you’ve trained, you can think yourself straight out of a PR. Form is important, but its also important to learn how and when to tell your brain to shut the heck up.
In the last few months I’ve noticed a pattern in some athletes, particularly those coming back from injuries. Fearful of re-injuring themselves and anxious to make up lost time, they fixate on everything – form, speed, any aches or signs of tightness – until they begin to lose trust in themselves and their own capacity for progress. One athlete rehabbing an injury worked on her form for weeks only to have a series of miserable workouts; she was so stressed about whether she was doing things “right” that she began to dislike the process and questioned whether she was capable of meeting her goal at all. “Maybe I’m not built for this after all,” she said. “Maybe I can’t do the things I used to do anymore.”
When the nagging voice inside your head says “Maybe I’m not…” or “Maybe I can’t…” you know that voice is not your friend. Thinking about form is good but overthinking is dangerous; the moment it is tied up with self-doubt and leads to more questioning than action, it becomes toxic. As athletes, we oscillate between being our own best motivator and our own worst enemy. Coaches are important in helping us stay on the positive side of that divide. Each time your coach looks you in the eye and says “You got this,” you have an invitation to trust the potential he or she sees over the nagging worries you feel in the moment. Accepting that invitation is the only way to make progress.
The athlete I described above trusted me enough to follow my instructions even when she felt discouraged, and one of those instructions was to stop thinking – about form, about speed, about anything. A week and a half after the “Maybe I’m not…” and “Maybe I can’t…” she surprised herself by setting a new workout PR. She hadn’t tried to do that. She’d just stopped analyzing whether she could. She found enough trust to let go and get out of her own way.
This week, I invite you to do the same. Trust yourself. Trust your coaches. And tell that nagging voice inside your head you’re busy; you have a WOD to clobber.
I LOVE this clip.. It gets me through my training and everyday! Enjoy