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Accomplish the, As Yet, Unaccomplished

Guest blog by Suzie Tuffey Riewald.

Accomplish the, As Yet, Unaccomplished

 

“I’m going for a Personal Record in the bench today. I just don’t know if I can do it – it seems like so much weight.”

 

“6’2”! Are you kidding me? I’ve never cleared that height in a competition.”

 

“Curses. I drew Frank in the first round. I’ve yet to beat him in the 5 times we’ve faced each other. He must have my number. I’m not 0-5 against anyone else.”

 

Facing a potential Personal Record (PR), or going against an opponent you have yet to defeat. Have you experienced a similar situation? How did you respond? Such scenarios (or similar ones) present tough physical and mental challenges. You are asking yourself to accomplish something you have never done before and, on top of it, you are trying to find the confidence in your ability to do so.

 

When faced with surpassing a PR, some athletes are able to perform up to their abilities whereas others are not able to do so and are, thus, unable to accomplish the unaccomplished. There is a huge mental component to breaking through performance barriers. Think about the 4-minute mile. It was once seen as one of those mythical barriers.  For years, athletes had been approaching 4:00 but could not break through that wall. Yet, within one year of Roger Bannister running sub-4:00, multiple other runners broke through that time barrier as well. It was not that the athletes were physically unable to run a mile under four minutes, it was that a mental barrier had been created, setting this up as a near impossible task. Once the mental barrier was removed from the mind, the body was “freed” to accomplish the physical task.

 

You want to be one of those athletes that reached the “impossible goal,” right? Of course you do. Let us review some strategies that you can implement to help you surpass these barriers (physical and mental) and have a successful performance. [Note: you don’t need to implement all of the strategies. Rather, practice and implement the one or two strategies that make most sense to you.]

 

Focus on the process. In such challenging situations as described previously, what tends to be your predominant thought? What is your focus? For many, the focus is on the challenge or the outcome of performance, i.e., the victory, PR, pinning an opponent. It is important to get your thoughts away from the outcome and, instead, place your mental energy on what you need to do to accomplish the task. Focus on what you control—your performance—not the end result. For example, when approaching the bar, focus on the various elements of your pre-lift routine, critical aspects of your technique or your breathing (as opposed to the weight on the bar).

 

Do it then do it. No, it is not a typo. You read it right — do it, then do it. That is, first mentally perform—see, feel, mentally experience successfully executing the lift, clearing the height or beating an opponent. Then, physically perform the skill just as you did in your imagery. In using imagery, you are mentally accomplishing the challenge which can help you prepare for the task and enhance your confidence in your ability to physically accomplish the task.

 

Give yourself reasons to believe. When you stop to think about it, it makes sense that you might have doubts as you are asking yourself to accomplish a task you have yet to accomplish. Don’t accept the doubts, instead, battle them.  That is, convince yourself with “the facts” as to why you should be and why you will be successful. Identify the reasons you will be successful and use these to battle the lingering doubts. These reasons can come from things you have done in training, past competitions, comments from coaches or teammates, or your work ethic.

 

Downplay it. There is a tendency to make a task or obstacle a monumental challenge because it has yet to be accomplished and there may have been many failed attempts along the way. This can make the obstacle grow to mythical proportions. Knock it down, mentally, to what it really is. Instead of thinking about the weight on the bench as something you have failed at twice, remind yourself that it is only two kilograms more that you lifted last week.  Similarly, the opponent you are facing should not be viewed as someone “I just can’t beat.” Rather, the opponent is someone you match up well against and to perform well you need to attack their backhand, for example.

 

Try, try again. You could not complete the rep without a little help, you missed the height, you lost the match. How you react to this failure is going to, in part, influence future attempts at similar challenges. Are you telling yourself, “I’ll never be able to do this?” Or, are you already analyzing what you need to do differently and what you need to work on to improve your performance?  Learn the lessons from your failures and apply them to future endeavors when you try, try again.

 

Suzie Tuffey Riewald, PhD, NSCA-CPT

 

Visualizing can be a key element in landing that next trick that you always seem so close to landing.  Instead of thinking about how you can’t quite grab the handle on that last 180 deg. rotation, picture yourself grabbing the handle and sticking the landing.  Instead of worrying about under/over-rotating on your front roll, imagine yourself rotating perfectly, landing smoothly and riding out in the flats.

I’m going to work on visualizing landing a backroll.  Be sure to leave a comment and let me know what trick you are going to visualize landing perfectly.

Roger Ernst II, CSCS

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