Friday, February 1, 2013

Can I get some Prozac with that...(pill #1)

Anxiety and stress is rampant in sports in general but especially in triathlon for some odd reason (if you think you know why definitely drop a note in the comment section or send me an email; I would love to hear people's thoughts on this). I am no exception here. To be honest, I am a clinically (and coach) diagnosed, grade A nut case (I have even been called nuttier than squirrel turds). You name the anxiety (sports related or not) and I most likely have had it.

Working at triathlon store and helping out with Team Z, I get a fairly good snapshot of the sport. I see clients and customers from beginners--some overly cocky and some nervous-- all the way up to the professionals. They all have anxiety to some extent but what sets the pros apart from the newbies is how they deal with that stress and anxiety. While the beginners let the stress of the sport and the external and internal pressures such as other's expectations eat them up inside, turning the stress into anxiety, the pros turn off their brains and embrace the stress. They recognize it for what it truly is: an illusion.

While I am no Dr. Phil, here are what I see as the top anxieties. I am going to take pity on you, the reader (skimmer?) and break this article up and address each anxiety in an upcoming series of posts. Since I have had them all, I hope to share with you what I have found help aleviate them: (as usual this is a long post, so go ahead and brew that coffee and uncork that Monster energy drink).

Here is pill number 1: Pre race-anxiety

Most commonly, triathletes seem to suffer from "pre-race anxiety." I know I have gotten this before every race dating back to high school and to some extent its completely normal. You know the feeling of you get the morning (or for me the week before the race) where those caterpillars of doubt break free from their cocoons and emerge as a sea of butterflies in the pit of your stomach; you have to go to the bathroom every thirty minutes; your hunger is either massive or non existent; morning sickness or nausea; your tri suit becomes saturated with sweat just thinking about the race; and, your heart seems to be racing faster than your bike (I think I may have just described menopause. Maybe I should get my symptoms checked out).

For the most part, this anxiety arises from preset expectations both from others and from ourselves. There are expectations that we will race under a certain time or make the podium or beat another racer. Most of the time these expectations are imaginary and we give them too much weight. While others may want or think that you can come in a certain place, I highly doubt they would really like you any less if you fail to meet their expectations. If they do negatively change their opinion of you based on whether you raced a 4:15 half or a 5 flat than they you may need to reevaluate your friends.

Prerace anxiety also arises from the fear of the unknown. Racing is one giant question mark. Will we race well? Who will win? Will I beat that other guy with the P5 (you know who you are)? Will we cramp? Will we get a flat (my biggest fear)? Will we surprise ourself and be awesome? What happens if I begin to nipple rub? All these situations circle us like vultures leading up to a race. To shake them off we have to be alive.

When these thoughts begin to arise, know that they are just fears and embrace them. It is natural to have them and in fact if you are even somewhat serious about the race then they should occur. Consequently, allow them to arise but do not cling to them. They will only weigh you down on the way to greatness. Leading up to a race, I like to visualize the race and every situation that may arise both good and bad. I then play out this fantasy and respond with what I would do if it were to occur. Therefore if it does happen, I know what to do. I also do deep breathing exercises to shut my brain off and return to the moment instead of the future.

With each race that I do though, my anxiety has decreased. I no longer feel like I am going to up chuck my frosted flakes with red bull. I still get nervous of course but I know that this is just a race like any other and there will be others for sure. I know that I am prepared for it to the best of my ability. I have done this before and, damn it, I can do it again. It will and should hurt but that is only to be expected. If I am not hurting, I am not racing properly. Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional...but that's just my two watts.

I hope that helps but if not let me know, you can always comment below or email me.

My next little pill is a related stress: workout anxiety. Oh dear, I am already getting nervous about writing this. Where's my Prozac?

No comments:

Post a Comment