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Woman Cave Wisdom: Performance Anxiety

Posted Jul 07 2012 12:00am
It's cool enough in the mornings to enjoy the woman cave again. I've been here most of the morning except to take Iris for a walk.

I've been having lousy runs all week and I finally decided today to just let go and live my day out like a normal person would, do things around the house, not worry about the workout or having to get certain things crossed off the list.

I had to think about why I was feeling so frustrated.

I was having unrealistic expectations of myself, and feeling anxious about getting started on training for my race at the end of the year. I can't force that to happen, it will have to wait until my body is ready.

I ran a 100 mile PR in May and then a 5 day, 163 mile run with a heavy pack 6 weeks later when I hadn't trained for the longer run, or with a heavy pack. It makes sense that I'd be tired and have some crappy workouts until my body says it's ready again.

And by December 30th when my race starts, my body isn't going to know the difference between starting on July 1st or July 31st.

As soon as I caught myself being anxious, I realized how silly it was and I got over it.

Yesterday I was having a conversation with someone about performance anxiety. She's done three times as many miles as I have so far this year and she's worried about her upcoming 100 mile race. As I listened more closely, I heard her say if there was no timing in a race she would probably run faster than she ever had.

This is someone who has run hundreds of races, of all different lengths, up to 100 miles. She's been running great performances this year. It's not like she's lacking experience. What she is lacking is confidence.

When you expect so much of yourself you get into trouble, because you lose perspective on what's important and why you're doing it. There are times to let go and not worry about it.

Performance anxiety has not been an issue for me ever since I accepted myself for my own abilities. Once you accept that, there is no reason why you can't improve and achieve personal records and perform beyond your wildest dreams.

But some people get so wound up when it comes to running in races because they haven't accepted themselves, they feel they have to compare themselves to other people, and they fear the comparison, fear that they won't measure up, but no one else is comparing.

The only time in my recent memory that I felt nervous was before my Badwater double last year. It wasn't about the race, it was about the whole thing I was about to embark on, going far beyond what I'd ever done before. I didn't trust my abilities enough in an unknown realm, even though I knew I was ready from my training. Once the gun went off I was moving forward, I was in it, all the anxiety disappeared, and I achieved my goal.

Expectations of yourself can be the most damaging, because we performance-oriented and goal-oriented individuals are always harder on ourselves than other people are.

When you do something you are not competing with others, you can only compete with yourself. You have no control over what others do and you only have partial control over what happens yourself. When things don't go so well, you can take the lessons from it, celebrate the successes, and move forward to improve on the next adventure.

I'm going to forget about putting pressure on myself and fill my time with other things, like meeting my friend Pam for sushi tomorrow, and getting little projects done around the house and the yard.

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