This time of year is very conflicting mentally for many of us. Many athletes have big season goals approaching and those can cause a release of many emotions. Depending on how we feel after a workout, weigh-in, prep event, physiological test, etc., these feelings can change on a dime.
Working hard, sacrificing other priorities, investing money, effort and, most of all, time into something important all help to create high expectations. These expectations supercharge our athletic experiences to a pretty high voltage. This is why “checking ourselves” when we feel like we’re getting amped up–positively or negatively–is so important. We spend more time in emotional extremes at this time of year and that is not always the best thing for us or those around us. So we must remember to keep things in perspective.
The key is to anticipate these high emotions, realize what is happening and work to minimize the impact it has on us and those around us. It will happen, make no mistake about it. When we have a bad day before a big event, the emotion will take us down mentally. The closer it is to the event, the greater the impact on our mood. Equally powerful, but on the other end of the spectrum, is when we have a good workout two weeks before a big event. This will elevate us so high as we feel we have really “nailed it”.
These emotional swings consume energy that needs to be harnessed for event day. My advice is to have confidence in the training and in the plan. Know that we all have tough workouts as we enter the home stretch of any big goal so it could be possible to feel the effect of a hard workout more than usual. There are many reasons for poor performances close to a big event, so take some time and think about it. Although we all might have different reasons for why this happens, there is one truth for all of us: the way we handle these setbacks and accomplishments can make or break our big goal events.
As a coach, I try to make sure all my athletes know the last four weeks are going to be emotional. It is hard to feel great and then swing to also feel really negative and tired. Some of my athletes’ biggest training volumes come just two to four weeks before an event, making them pretty tired. I let them know that they will not feel their best from four weeks to five days out because of the increased training load plus the recovery and growth period needed to grow. I also give them micro rest cycles to pop up their form, giving them some confidence that what we are doing is working and they are getting stronger. This way they see the improvement. They expect to be tired from the increased workload and they are confident because they know after the rest they will be even stronger.
The thing about training for a big goal is that we all know this. It still makes us nuts! It is human nature. Second-guessing whether it was all worth it and if we did too much or not enough comes with the territory. It is important to extend goals to include enjoying the process as much, if not more than, the event itself. I also find it helpful to think back on some (more) words my dad told me: “Don’t stress over things you cannot change.”
…Sometimes, that is easier said than done. So here are my top five tips to reduce the emotional roller coaster the peaking process delivers:
- Put into perspective how important this is in the big scheme of things (health, family, job, friends, etc.).
- Review the training plan (if you are not feeling your best) and try to find a reason for the bad workout: big intensity, big volume, flat legs from big rest, etc. Most likely there is a plausible reason behind the result.
- Communicate! Call a coach, mentor or someone who can understand the goal and the training. It is easy to get so focused on what we are doing that we miss something apparent to another.
- Revisit what was neglected due to increased training and make time for it. Sometimes our minds are so tight that we need to let them reset. I like to play my guitar and go for ice cream, two things that don’t happen when I am training a bunch. This re-connection to other interests re-motivates me.
- Reflect on the joys of the process: more fitness, friendships, knowledge gained, health benefits, etc. Remember that the journey brings great gifts.
These five tips will help turn some of that nervous energy into the positive energy that can help fuel us not only to our best performances, but keep us and the people around us happy!