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How Stress Can Impact Your Performance

How Stress Can Impact Your Performance

img21 August 2018

You are in the final week of an incredible journey of physical, mental and personal growth. You set a goal that not many would even begin to think about.   You have taken the time to trust your coach, trust you body and trust your SELF that you can achieve a 70.3 Ironman.

As you approach race day you may be or have experienced an increase in stress that can present itself in many ways for example, feeling more overwhelmed, anxious, angry, or sad than normal.  It can also impact how well you sleep, what you eat, and even how you train.  You may have noticed those around you acting differently than normal and questioned if you have upset them or done something wrong…

The thing with stress is our mind/brain perceives that goal as a threat to our safety and our primitive instincts kick in (monkey brain, reptilian brain).  What does this mean?  Our mind tells us all sorts of stories, reacts in ways that see things as a danger (negative) and creates a heap of unhelpful thoughts, feelings and obviously these things impact how we behave.

Ok so before your primitive brain runs off too far with this I can tell you that it’s completely normal!  BUT if your not aware of this it can negatively impact on your relationships or your performance and that would suck as you have done all the hard work to get here!

The good thing is stress can be very helpful to achieving your goal whether it is to just finish or to improve from last time!  There are 2 types of stress Eustress – healthy tension and Distress – uncontrollable/unmanageable.  Now we need stress to have good performance but too much or too little does not.  Also having a goal that creates pressure leads to good performance, although if its too hard obviously is unlikely to succeed or too easy you just don’t turn up.  Remember a diamond is made under pressure.

So how do we use stress to our advantage?  Always remember why you started, why did you choose a 70.3 Ironman as your goal?  What drove you to say yes this is what I want to achieve?  Everyone will answer this differently but you might ask yourself and write it down, even pen it on your arm come race day – Is it to be a good role model for your children, is it to be fitter, faster and stronger then yesterday, is it because you want to push the boundaries in your life to fulfill something important to you, is it because you want to be strong for someone else in your life, is it because you always finish something your started? It could be all of these or could be something else but the most important thing is when in doubt you can look back and go yes this is important because….. HEALTH, STENGTH, LOVE, COMMITMENT, FOCUS, POWER, BELIEF, DREAM, ADMIRATION, I CAN I WILL I TRI

I would love to hear your why one day, your story!

How to be mentally prepared!

REMEMBER TO BREATH – breath right down into your tummy (diaphragm) you can place your hand on your tummy as a focus point for your breath.  Sit up straight shoulders back and down, feet flat on the floor and just breath.  Do this throughout the day in the car, before a conversation, before you pick up that race pack, before your rack your bike and remember your why.  Any time you feel that mind racing off take 5 slow deep breaths.

VISUALISATION – spend some time visualizing your self on the course succeeding, feeling good, crossing that finish line, high 5ing your mates and randoms on the course, what jokes your going to tell.  Practice smiling!

BREAK IT DOWN – WHAT CAN YOU DO?  What can you do… I can have everything packed that I need, service my bike, have a massage, chiropractor, take a bath with Epsom salts, listen to music, go for a walk, call a friend, eat well, prioritise sleep, make a plan to celebrate, all the things that are in your control!!

AFFIRMATIONS – We all know that positive self-talk comes in handy especially on a challenging training day or race day.   Now I’m not talking about Nikki in our head… well she has got me up Lynette a few times “legs, legs, legs”,  “hips under”, “what are you doing?”  I am strong!  I have trained for this!  I am good enough! I can do it!  Just do it!  A personal favourite is “look at my butt working (jiggling) and getting smaller”!  Or I am doing it already!

BREAK DOWN YOUR RACE/TRAINING  – Small achievable parts.  You probably do it already but being more aware and consciously breaking your race or training session down is a great strategy.  For example breaking it down into laps, 5 km segments, or time segments works as well (I will have this gel and see how I feel in 10 minutes).   I personally like thinking of 1 hour down 1 hour to go – I CAN DO THAT.   Use your nutrition plan to help with this, when I get here I get to have this ?.  Swim – ok lets make it to the next buoy?  Ask yourself helpful questions rather then unhelpful thoughts!  How can I get to the next bouy? What do I need to do to make it to the next transition?  Next drink station is in 1 km what do I need to do to get there?  What pose will I do when I cross the finish line?

WORK OUT YOUR WEAKNESS – We all have something that is likely to tip us of our game so have a strategy to deal with it, if it does occur you can stop that slide into a unhelpful mental space on race day.  If my wetsuit is tight or my goggles are gone I can still swim because I have trained like this or have done this before.  If my leg cramps when swimming I can still swim with my arms as I practice with a band.  If I have a flat, that’s ok I know how to change it.  If that person is not waiting at that 17km that’s ok they may have got lost or thought it was the finish line.  If something happens that’s outside of my control its ok because I tried my best.  Ultimately yes something may not go to plan but its also more likely that it does and it’s worth the risk to succeed and complete your goal.  Everything good or bad that happens is a learning opportunity!

MUSCLE RELAXATION – Jump on ITunes music or google and download a 10 min progressive muscle relaxation.

MINDFULNESS – Mindfulness is helpful throughout your day and when practiced can be very useful.  It can be as simple as noticing what you can see, hear, taste, touch and smell.  Taking a moment to notice what’s happening right now.  Notice the wind, the sound of the waves, the warmth of the sun, the chatter of people or simply sitting a noticing your breath.  Download an app – Smiling mind, Headspace, Insight timer. 10 minutes a day, morning and night.

COMMUNICATE – Now sometimes we can be horrible to the most important people in our lives when we are stressed.  This is not ok and will impact you aswell!  Take the time to talk with them about your why!  Have a chat and say I am feeling…tired, stressed, angry because I have set this goal and it’s so important to me… I really want to achieve this because… I want to finish what I started, so I can show my kids you can do anything, do this for me because I feel like I can be a better mum, partner, friend, I’m sorry if I don’t give you the time or am a little snappy… I need you to help me by  … giving me a hug, let me have a sleep, be at the finish line, take 14 photos make sure there is a swim, bike and run shot, high five me at the 14th km, bring champagne, and chocolate and I promise I will make time for you when its done lets …

LAUGH ENJOY BE STONG YOU ARE ALL AWESOME AND AMAZING

A note from me to the athletes at Tri-Activ8 – Being apart of Tri-ActiV8 has made a huge positive change in my life because of all of you.  I see strength, commitment, support, and kindness in each and every one of you.  When I see each of you it makes me want to turn up, to tri my best, and also know I can do anything I want to achieve around you.  So remember even on your bad day you are inspiring someone else but the main reason is because you’re doing it for yourself!  I have not done a 70.3 so I can’t speak from experience but you never know I might one day.  But I can help with this stuff so happy to help out if I can because you all help me in your own little way too.  GOT GET IT

Author: Kelly Anderson, Consultant Psychologist, Mackay & Tri-Activ8.
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