It Is Normal
Sport and fitness performance is never linear. We all get into ruts. I can speak to it first hand.
Sometimes you find yourself in a place where you cannot find the energy, the confidence, to charge ahead and get after your goals. This is a tough place to be, because although your mind is telling you these doubtful thoughts, you still know where you want to be.
I’ll tell you a little bit about spending time in this place. It was a couple years ago, I was just starting up my racing season. Training was going well. I often find “working hard” to be the easiest part of training. It isn’t the pushing yourself to break a sweat and get your heart rate up that is the most difficult. The mental aspect becomes the kicker and something you have to work just as hard on as you do your physical body.
I had a great autumn of training but was nervous to get into a season of racing. I was fit, but in my mind, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to live up to the success I had the year before. This already put me behind: COMPARING.
“Comparison is the thief of joy” - Theodore Roosevelt
This quote sticks with me in low times, when I look at others and their own personal fitness/athletic journey. Comparison pulls you away from your own progression. Everyone has their own struggles,
setbacks, and moments of success. What separates people able to achieve their goals and feel fulfilled is trusting their own process.
This also means removing judgement on yourself for lacking confidence here and there. The worst thing you can do is analyze why you don’t have confidence without getting outside perspective. There comes a point when you have to fake it, push forward, and use tools such as body language and positive self-talk to keep truckin’ on.
I was nervous. I had breakdowns in races, in training, outside of the track. This started to seep into my relationships in my life, my work. In the reverse, my outside life started to seep into my athletic life. The mind and body are so connected: this is something that cannot be overlooked. When the mind is out of balance, the body will follow. I decided to take steps to become the best version of myself, trusting that the athletic performance success would follow.
It did. And this wouldn't be the first time I had to deal with this. As I said earlier, the journey of sports and fitness is never linear. There are always adjustments to be made and obstacles to overcome.
Heal Your Mind
Often, however, mental health comes into play. This is when you have to take care of this. Sports psychology, clinical psychology, councillors. Anxiety sometimes appears as a lack of confidence, and this is why, for both real life and athletic performance, we have to treat our mind with the same respect we treat the rest of our body. When we get a hamstring tear or the flu, this is treated and seen as a physical injury. It is important to treat mental health should the same.
There is not one way to handle a lack of confidence: I have tried it all. “Fake it Till You Make It” is popular, and works well when you need to take the first step in halting the overanalyzing of it. This is true for you analytical folks. We are our biggest critics, so sometimes you have to get over the swirl of negative thoughts in your head and replace those with positive ones until you really believe it.
Using mental health resources as part of your training plan: this can help you overcome the lack of confidence and really rise to your potential.
When your confidence takes a hike, this does not mean it’s gone for good. There are ways to be proactive in getting it back, and we are all in it together. You are stronger than you think.
- Open Communication: Whether that be with your coach or trainer, your support team, your sports or clinical psychologist/psychiatrist, your friends/family/partner. It is important to be open with the people closest who support you. They can be a sounding board, and help you progress towards your goals, especially when you find yourself in a rut.
- Acceptance: Acknowledging when things aren't great is an important step to moving forward. That way, you can make a plan that is manageable, and work on being patient and kind with yourself.
- Fake it Till You Make It: When it comes to performance when you are in the midst of competition or training, you have to find a balance of compartmentalizing and being aware of how you are feeling. There comes a point where when you commit to the training, you have to use positive self-talk to train yourself to dig out of the rut. Words such as "you are enough", "you can do this", "you are brave", "you are strong". While this may seem juvenile and cliche, if you keep saying it to yourself and blocking out the negative self-talk, you begin to believe it again. Because it is TRUE. You are capable!!