Those workouts that create anxiety are the often the same ones meant to stretch you and shape you into a better, mentally stronger athlete. I always think of this common quote when it comes to these types of situations:
Here are a few strategies that I've implemented in my training to overcome workout anxiety, get myself out the door and put together some higher quality workouts in general!
(1) Breathe deep- such a simple concept but a powerful tool in relaxing the body.
(2) Visualize success- before a hard workout, I take a few minutes to visualize the successful completion of that workout and my pushing through the harder moments.
(3) Manage expectations- being realistic with workout goals is key. As a person of generally high expectations, this can sometimes paralyze me out of fear of failure. I have learned to cut myself some slack, to seek progress and not perfection.
(4) Ease into the workout and break into smaller, more manageable chunks - often the first few steps in getting out the door are the hardest! Seek to take an extended or extra long warm-up. Pace the first few intervals conservatively and ease into the truly hard efforts.
(5) Enlist in outside support - when possible, enlist in the support of a friend, spouse, personal trainer or coach. Social support is a powerful tool when it comes to adding an extra layer of accountability and overcoming anxiety.
(6) Amp up the tunes - my tunes serve a few different purposes - first they help get my adrenaline pumping and motivated to workout. Second they serve as a vital distraction to get my brain to shut down the negative self-talk and just get to work!
(7) Develop a mantra - similar to the music, a positive phrase or mantra can be effective in tuning out the negativity and provide some positive momentum to push through tough workouts [My husband states his mantra for the San Diego 100 was "This is what I'm doing today."]
(8) Celebrate successes and be kind to yourself! Give yourself pat on the back for a job well done. Even if things did not go perfectly to plan, take note areas of improvement and focus on what went well.
Anxiety is never fun to deal with, and I know I'm not alone in the struggle. As someone who no longer wishes to let my fears control my actions, it's taken a lot of cognitive work to push through my insecurities and anxieties but I can attest it is possible! Surprisingly, I did not have much anxiety in regards to yesterday's 70 mile long ride... that is until I mapped it out and visualized JUST how far it was... yikes! Breaking it down into smaller chunks and focusing on each 10 mile segment definitely helped. Again, here I just aim to share my perspective on the topic knowing that anxiety is something we all feel to a certain extent, especially when it comes to stepping outside of comfort zones in sport.
What workouts tend to cause you the most anxiety (if any)? What strategies can you share to push beyond your anxieties?
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and endurance athlete residing in southwest Virginia alongside her husband and dog. Through this blog she aims to share favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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