I remember my first weightlifting competition like it was yesterday. It was at a Velocity Sports Training Center in Peachtree City, GA. I remember the weigh-in (61kg even), the waiting, and the warmups. However, I will never forget the feeling I had in my stomach the first time I walked to that platform. I love crowds, I love being in front of crowds, and I especially love being the one to entertain the crowd but this time it was different. I opened with 60kg. I was so nervous I couldn’t even look at the crowd much less focus on what I was doing. I was shaking, too afraid to miss. Luckily, my coach expected this and opened me at such a low weight there was no way for me to miss. I almost did. Swung it behind me but managed to save it. My first lift done, everything went smoothly after that. I would never be that nervous again but the first lift of my career will always make me tremble.
Growing up, a coach once told me there is a difference between nervous energy and anxious energy. The nervous kind is for the unprepared who are hoping for a good outcome. The anxious kind is for the prepared who are anxious to create their own outcome. My first weightlifting meet should have been the anxious kind but I was so focused on the crowd and the fear of missing that my nerves almost got the best of me.
Often times athletes are prepared and let external factors and stressors detract from their preparedness. Nothing is more frustrating for that athlete and their coach than when an athlete finishes a competition having underachieved because of nerves. Nerves can often force you to make poor decisions when pacing a workout or force you to lift a different way than you have practiced or trained. This kind of nervous energy creates negative results in competition and often is a marks for lack of preparation.
The opposite is true of anxious energy. This is the kind of emotional response you have when you see a venue for the first time and your heart starts to beat faster and your hands start to sweat and you can’t wait to compete. This is the emotional response that comes when a coach sees an athlete take the floor on a workout knowing he is as prepared as he can be. This type of emotional response is one born, bred, and formed in the gym. You feel this way when you have put in the work and your body is ready for the challenge ahead of it. Anxious energy exuded in this way pushes an athlete to the podium not to mistakes. I felt this way when I stepped into the warm-up room for last years American Open and last weekend when Jason took the floor for the Deadlift/Box Jump workout.
While I am sure I have super over-simplified a greater psychological struggle, the reality is that nerves can be both beneficial and detrimental to your success. If you are prepared, have trained hard, and are ready for what’s in front of you then you have nothing to be worried about. In that case be confident in your preparation and take the platform (or field or arena floor) with the knowledge that you are ready. Worry about how you will perform will only deflect from your actual performance. Worry and stress are disadvantageous and ultimately exhibit a lack of trust in your readiness.
Let the adrenaline and energy show up pre-competition be a fuel for performance not a deflector.
Outlaws and athletes competing this weekend. Good luck you are ready!
Watch this: Rise and Shine!