Let’s talk about fear. Fear plays an important role in our lives; it protects us in dangerous situations, heightens awareness, and can be very helpful if not life saving. Fear can evoke a fight or flight response, an important and powerful emotional and biological reaction. We all know what this feels like. Our heart races, we become hyper-aware, we sweat, and adrenaline is introduced into our bloodstream. These symptoms are a classic reaction to external fears. Spiders, heights, public speaking, and Fran are good examples of these external sources of fear.
The fear I’d like to talk about is just as deep; however, not a reaction to life and death situations. I’m talking about the fear we have learned in reaction to things that make us uncomfortable. This internal fear could be evidenced by the self-doubt, anxiety, nervousness, or self-consciousness that many of us feel in the gym (not to mention our every day lives). This fear takes many forms. Fear of failure, fear of losing, or fear of looking foolish in front of others just to name a few.
What if I look stupid? What if I miss? What if I fall over? What if other people don’t like me? What if I finish dead last? What if I don’t meet others expectations? What if I don’t PR?
Have you asked yourself any of these questions in the gym before? I’d be surprised if you hadn’t. What do you do with this fear? It can be motivating, drive us to do better and overcome; however, it can also be detrimental and debilitating.
The symptoms of this fear can reach far into your life, and they show up in CrossFit as well. Have you ever intentionally miscounted? Have you ever given up or quit because you’re not having a great workout? Have you ever not come to the gym because you’re ‘not good’ at what we were doing that day? Do you make excuses like ‘I’m tired’, ‘I didn’t eat well today’, ‘my hands hurt’, ‘it’s too hard’, or ‘I’m too sore’? First, we have done all of these things before. Why? we’re afraid. This is something that we are constantly working on, and we’ve seen in everyone at the gym at times. It is not something that we claim to have personally defeated or overcome, but being aware of this can improve your performance in the gym as well as your daily life. This must be prefaced by saying that all of what follows is easy to say and hard to do. It looks very simple, but takes dedication and major effort – remind you of anything?
What can we do to help ourselves?
1. Be Aware. Recognize when these feelings come up and ask yourself why you’re feeling this way. Make notes about your mental performance and how you feel after the workout to know going forward how your mental state affected the quality of the workout.
2. Practice Honesty. Acknowledge and admit the excuses you are making. Because this can be a daunting exercise, start internally and then when you feel comfortable, find someone you trust and confide in them.
3. Strive for Accountability. Ask someone to keep you in check. This could be about skipping a workout because you aren’t the most comfortable with the movements or this can be asking a coach to not let you drop weight during a workout just because it gets difficult and uncomfortable.
We CrossFit because it’s fun, but it’s also about increasing work capacity and functional movement. Recognizing your fears and shortcomings and working to overcome them will ultimately increase your work capacity, overall fitness, and quality of life.
Be aware, honest, and accountable. Practice functional movement for your mind.