Monday, January 18, 2010

Don't Be Afraid!

Kids are Fearless
Cyclocross State Champs, No Fear!

Fear can be what holds you back from reaching your potential, or achieving your goals. Fear of failing, not measuring up, not performing, or letting someone else down can all stop an athlete from making there way to the top. Instead of facing that fear head on, often athletes avoid those things they are afraid of. Things that may help them in the long run become a fitter, faster, and fully reach their potential.

I can remember as a new triathlete many years ago (I won't mention the year), I used to be afraid of going to swim practice. I played college volleyball, and had not ever been on a swim team. This was WAY before there were so many great masters programs... and well before Naperville Waves, and definitely before triathlon coaching programs evolved, Internet with you-tube videos, swim clinics etc. What was I afraid of? I was never afraid of the water, I loved the water, but I was afraid of looking foolish, not being fast enough, not knowing how to flip turn, people laughing, and how awful the burning lungs felt. But I wanted to become a triathlete bad enough that I eventually overcame this fear to kept going. I kept improving, got faster, learned how to flip turn and eventually that fear went away. Now I may only have swim fear if I find myself at a MSM kids practice or in Adam's lane at masters. And then its just fear of possibly throwing up in the lane. (ha ha, j/k)!

Cyclocross was new to me this year. I love riding the bike hard and love showing up to Colonial Rides with the guys, but to race off road and jump over barriers, and race through mud, sand, or off camber tight turns was enough to make me a little nervous for the first race or 2. The unknown of bike racing, and if I would be able to control my bike and still go fast created some fear. But that fear turned into adrenaline each week which helped push me along. By the time the state champs rolled around, there wasn't any fear (other than the joyous pain that comes with all out efforts), just the good nerves that can make you go fast.

The fear of failing or not meeting expectations is enough to stop some athletes in their tracks. One of the best tools I can use as a coach is a test set or field test to measure or mark fitness. But so often this scares athletes off and there often seems to be a glich with their power taps, or garmin, HR monitor etc. or something comes up and the test can't be done. These little tests are nothing to be afraid of. They are not World Championships, or Olympics. Life and death or your ability to breathe doesn't depend on these tests, but, they do help the coach write better workouts, and help mark fitness. And, as an athlete it only helps you build confidence and see your progression in fitness. So don't be afraid! Don't' be afraid of the numbers, or results, or not being fast enough.

Often fear stops us from working on what limits us. What limits you as an athlete? Biking aggressively? Like...really racing the bike? How about hurting on the run and racing someone down near the end of the race. If you're training partner starts coming up behind you in a race...what are you going to do? ease up and let them go? or...race. What if strength is your limiter because you can produce no power, but the thought of showing up to the weight room sends you into a panic attic. Will you avoid the session with metal or pump some iron to get some muscles. To face these fears in practice type settings, little races, group rides, test sets only helps you handle the fear. Toeing the line in practice type settings only increases the ability to handle that fear and to face it head on, look it straight in the eye and go for it. Then when its time for the real deal, ... you will be confident and ready!

Much of what I've learned about fear came initially from my father who is a great coach and motivator, plenty years of experience at racing, and also Cheryl Hart who is a wonderful sports psychologist who has spoken at Trainingbible clinics, and some Life Coaching stuff from Simon Thompson!

So many athletes and people I meet along the way have such big goals and dreams which is wonderful! Dream big and go for it, but think about what you're afraid of or could be holding you back, then face it head on! Don't be afraid!

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