Photo Credit: Sierra Prime
The 2016 Open is officially over. As the chalk settles and the sweat angels dry up we look back at our annual benchmark another year fitter, and another year wiser. The Open provides such great insight into where we are as athletes, ruthlessly exposing weaknesses (hello toes to bar!) and rewarding the hours logged to correct weaknesses (HSPU for me this year). Beyond exposing physical weaknesses, this year's Open (perhaps more than previous years) really exposed how athletes perform under pressure, but fortunately like physical weakness, this too can be trained.
For me the first workout was a surprise. I approached it differently than I would have if I had been in my right mind (not feeling the pressure) and pushed hard passed the red-line. I was so concerned about giving it another go that I didn't give myself enough time to recover and hit muscular failure on the second attempt. If that had happened in training, I would have taken a few deep breaths and gotten back into it without taking much time, when it happened while the clock counted down on 16.1 I was freaking out and took longer than I needed to, and my score reflected that. If you're reading this blog and this is resonating with you, maybe it didn't go down quite like that, but somewhere in this Open the athlete you were during 16.whatever was a far cry from the athlete you are every day.
Fortunately, I have a great team around me who was supportive and didn't beat me up for failing to live up to my potential on week one. Also, I have a great coach with whom I was able to discuss what-the-heck happened and come up with a game plan moving forward. For the remainder of the Open we decided I would attack each workout like I do in training. That I would come up with a game plan and adjust based on how my body was responding, rather than how loud everyone was yelling, or how fast the athlete next to me was going. That strategy has been working much better for me than being a head case.
But changing your mindset in a pressure cooker like the Open is hard to do, and it takes practice and success under pressure to learn how to "turn it on" when it matters. An easy illustration of this is the sport of Olympic Lifting. Hardcore coaches will tell you a training PR means nothing that PRs only count when under white lights at a meet. To prepare their athletes for the pressure of a live meet Oly lifters do mock meets leading up to the event both in house, and at mock meets elsewhere to simulate that do-or-die environment.
Mentally experiencing that before it actually matters is important so you know how you'll react, and so you can adjust your mental game plan for when game day shows up. So here are some strategies you can employ to practice the skill of performing under pressure:
Note: quitting and freaking out rarely result in success, so those are not recommended
The Open is over. Take stock, reevaluate, be proud of what you've done, be hungry to be better, and go celebrate.
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