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Overcoming Anxiety By Nick Kosik

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Pre-Wod Nerves

We’ve all felt that moment. You come into the gym, walk over to the white board, look over the workout, and give an exhausting sigh. A million ‘What-If’s’ start flooding your mind and those burpees programed are staring you down. That feeling is known as “butterflies”, jitters, obtrusive racing thoughts, and results in muscle tension and an increased heartrate [1]. Sure, heart rate and active muscles are necessary for any exercise, but only to a certain level [3]. Over-arousal can take the greatest superhero and crash their performance, as well as their recovery [2].

There is a simple exercise to demonstrate how overly tense muscles can reduce performance and require more energy spent during an exercise:

  1. Start with your hand face down on a flat surface.
  2. Begin by flexing your hand as hard as you can. Don’t make a fist, try to leave your hand open with all the hand and forearm muscles flexed.
  3. While holding the flex, try to tap your first two fingers on the surface as fast as you can.

While doing so, notice the difficulty in making your fingers comply while your hand is tense.

Now, repeat the finger tap exercise, but this time start with a relaxed hand.

Did you notice a difference? Did you fingers move much faster a second time?

When your more anxious, nervous, or unsure of yourself before, during, and even after an exercise, such as a WOD, this causes low levels of confidence in yourself. Low self-confidence can cause a list of issues including, low performance, increased muscle tension, increased heartrate, higher blood lactate levels, and an observation of the same exercise as negative compared to someone who has high confidence levels [4].

A burpee will always be a burpee. It will be as equally exhausting as the previous burpee. So, do not fight the anxiety, EMBRACE IT. Anxiety is your body’s way of switching on the fight-or-flight response in your nervous system. This is a good thing and is required for all exercise. So, the next time you feel those ‘butterflies’ on the next bout of Angie, know your body is priming itself and getting ready to tackle those pullups.

Another good way to EMBRACE IT is with self-talk. That voice in your head has more control over your confidence level than any other influence in your life. Get out of the future and stay in the present moment. If your warming up and chatting with other members, that’s where your focus should be. It’s the “What-If’s” that take you off task and make you miss the present moment.

Lastly, don’t forget to remind yourself to breathe. Of course, this sounds silly, how can you do a WOD without breathing. What I mean by this is, focus on your breath, take deep and full inhales and exhales. Use this breath to recognize any tenseness in your muscles. This pairs wells with self-talk.

Remember, you can do anything you set your mind to, and you have an entire gym community who will back you up. These skills take practice and frequent application to get good and be able to apply in a variety of situations. Practice and patience is key. You either win or you learn, failure isn’t an option. Positive thinking will always influence confidence, and higher confidence translates to the rest of your life.

 

[1] Cresswell, S., & Hodge, K. (2004). Coping Skills: Role of Trait Sport Confidence and Trait Anxiety. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 98(2), 433-438. doi:10.2466/pms.98.2.433-438

[2] Eva Monsma, James Mensch, and Jennifer Farroll (2009) Keeping Your Head in the Game: Sport-Specific Imagery and Anxiety Among Injured Athletes. Journal of Athletic Training: Jul/Aug 2009, Vol. 44, No. 4, pp. 410-417.

[3] Perkins, D., Wilson, G. V., & Kerr, J. H. (2001). The Effects of Elevated Arousal and Mood on Maximal Strength Performance in Athletes. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 13(3), 239-259. doi:10.1080/104132001753144392

[4] Pijpers, J., Oudejans, R. R., Holsheimer, F., & Bakker, F. C. (2003). Anxiety–performance relationships in climbing: A process-oriented approach. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 4(3), 283-304. doi:10.1016/s1469-0292(02)00010-9