Ok, I know this sounds funny but little things aren’t important, even if they are. Let me explain.
The CrossFit Games are coming up very soon and I remember training for this competition like it was yesterday…
Last year, training for the games blind sighted me to a certain extent, I was focused on only one thing: my immediate success in every possible training session. To me, every day was so important and every piece needed to be perfect or else I would fail at the Games. In my current position as a coach I see things as a whole, a big picture, a finished puzzle, a fully assembled Ikea dresser or whatever metaphor floats your boat. I now understand the good old “Trust the process” speech: “Trust me, everything will be fine, things will be ok, everything will come together, don’t worry, blah blah blah”. As an athlete, this was so hard to grasp. It’s so easy to lose track of the big picture because we’re in the present and we just can’t see the future and therefore we project. This tunnel vision causes many athletes to worry about every little thing and has them convinced that EVERYTHING will have an effect on the end result. Athletes may feel that a bad session will fuck shit up, they may feel that a missed lift is a reflection of who they are and what they stand for or they may even feel that the ice cream they’re about to chow down on will stop them from flexing when it counts.
This is not to say the answer to this “athletic anxiety” is to skip sessions and eat ice cream. Athletes must live by the old “Hard work pays off” credo and their life choices need to help set up and maintain an environment for success, especially in competition. A sound nutrition will promote recovery and performance, treatments and therapy will prevent injury and improve physical capacity, those disgusting assault bike pieces will absolutely be worth it. All these things will further one’s chances for success and they are easy enough to put into place, but what happens when things go wrong? Because they will go wrong, I promise you.
It’s when hard work and great training days become difficult that obstacles can quickly become seemingly insurmountable. I don’t mean difficult like “ Oh boy that workout was hard” I mean it more like “oh fuck I hate my life and I’d rather be crawled up in a ball and never be seen again” kind of difficult. It is at this time the “athletic anxiety” will kick in and small things become UBER important to an athlete. Missed lifts and a perceived regression of skill can cause athletes to “lose their shit” (maybe kick a box or punch a wall. Not that it ever happened to me…) and they may be compelled to obsess over every detail of their life choices. Here’s where my message becomes important: a single element in an athlete’s lifestyle and training by itself is NOT a big deal. Obsessing over this will cause you unnecessary stress and self-doubt.
If shit goes sideways in training, as a competitive person you have the right to feel upset; it would be unusual not to feel that way, you expect more of yourself but what you can’t do is dwell. This is where some people improve as athletes and other stall. If your job as an athlete is to progress, you NEED obstacles to do this, you NEED things to go wrong, you NEED to miss your opening lifts and you sometimes NEED to feel like poop. Missing your opening lift will keep you on edge and make you work harder for it next time. Feeling like shit should raise red flags and make you re-evaluate things outside of training like your sleep or your lifestyle outside the gym. So, yes every part of training is important because they can indicate potential failure and success, but all the little things don’t mean anything unless they are put together as a whole. What is the « whole »? It is all the little details and elements that make up your training including your successful days, your unsuccessful days AND how you reacted and moved on from both of those. To summarize, it is important to keep those small bumps small. This will help you stay focused and confident to achieve your goal. So trust the process (yes…I said it). Trust that those small things aren’t what will make or break you but rather how you react to those small things and how you bring everything together as a whole.
« If we follow the do something principle, failure feels unimportant. When the standard of success becomes merely acting-when any result is regarded as progress and important, […]- we propel ourselves ahead. We feel free to fail and failure moves us forward ».