Why are you Nervous?

I want to use this article to talk a little bit about something that I learned about myself that has really helped me out.  Hopefully you might be able to relate to it in some way and apply it to your life.  I could tell you in a typical article format but sometimes I feel like it is a lot easier to learn from someone else's story or mistake as opposed to learning it on your own.  My goal with all of my articles is to share what I have learned in my life so as to help other people, and hopefully this will apply as well.

I used to get nervous before CrossFit workouts.  Like really nervous.  I would think about the workout that I had to do that day as soon as I woke up, and I would think about it consistently throughout the day until it was time to do the workout.  I would think about it with dread throughout my whole session and would constantly be thinking about ways I could get out of it.  Maybe I could fake an injury?  Maybe there will be an emergency come up?  Maybe I should drive my car into oncoming traffic so I wouldn't have to do it?  Regular workouts were one thing, but it got even worse on workouts that I was retesting and trying to improve on.  Worst of all was the Open.  I hated the Open with a passion because of the 5 weeks of anxiety it caused me. I always told myself that I was just nervous about it because I knew that it was going to hurt.  CrossFit workouts are hard and there is a unique pain to each of them.  I was just afraid of the pain I was going to feel. The more I thought about it though, the more I started to realize that that reason didn't hold water.  Why didn't I get nervous before partner workouts?  Those hurt just as bad, if not worse, than regular workouts.  Why didn't I get nervous before track sessions?  Or rowing intervals?  Or rowing for an hour straight?  Or CrossFit style intervals?  Those were some of the most brutal sessions that I had ever done and yet I wasn't getting nervous before them.  I finally came to the realization that it wasn't the physical pain that was making me nervous.  It was the emotional pain of not living up to my own expectations that I was afraid of.  And this pain was enough to make me so nervous that I didn't enjoy my sport anymore.  I was putting way to much pressure on myself.

I started CrossFit with immediate success.  I started in August 2010, and in 2011 I qualified for regionals on my first try.  I went on to qualify the next three years as well, qualifying four times straight.  This immediate success, at the time, seemed like a great thing.  Looking back at it, however, it also brought about some negative aspects.  I started to put a ton of pressure on myself to take it to the next level.  I devoted my life to my goal of qualifying for the CrossFit Games.  In 2013 I finished 11th, 8 spots and a few mistakes out of top 3.  I just knew that I was right on the brink.  I doubled down on my training and expectations.  The next year I finished much worse.  And then I never qualified as an individual again.  What happened?  How could I go from making it 4 straight to not even coming close three years later.  Sure the field had gotten better but so had I.  Improved field and fewer qualifying spots didn't tell the whole story.  Something else was going on.

Training wasn't fun anymore.  When I started CrossFit I loved every aspect of it.  I love the idea that there were so many different avenues to it that needed to be worked on.  I had far to go in every area and I loved it.  My first year of regionals was a blast.  I had no expectations and just enjoyed being there.  With success, however, came expectations.  Not from anyone else but myself.  I started to put tremendous pressure on myself to achieve my goals.  Every workout was a test.  If I didn't do as well as I thought I should, which was almost every workout, then I was upset.  It was a direct attack to my goals and my self esteem.  How could I work so hard for something and still be so far away from where I wanted to be?  What more could I do to achieve my goals?  Somewhere along this time I became obsessed with my results.  I was always comparing myself to others.  How did so and so do on this workout?  If someone beat me on a workout who I didn't consider as good as me then I was very upset.  I dwelled on it all night.  I had to try harder!  I had to be more dedicated!  I know now, looking back on it, that this obsession forced me to underperform.  I couldn't live up to the expectations that I had set for myself.  I started to do worse on retest workouts.  It didn't make any sense to me at the time because I was working harder than ever.  I was being crushed under my own lofty expectations.

I finally realized that it was time to shift my focus a few years ago and I started to focus on helping others reach their goals instead of focusing on my own.  This was so much more fulfilling and I loved helping our team make it to regionals twice.  I loved being able to share my experiences with others.  I was still getting nervous before workouts, however.  I finally had a talk with myself last year about it.  Why are you getting so nervous for CrossFit workouts?  You have been doing them for 8 years now.  You know what they are going to feel like.  It doesn't matter what your score is.  Seriously.  I knew all of these things but deep down I was still holding onto my performance.  My identity was still wrapped up in how I performed on a given day.  I was still worried about losing to others, or not being as good as I was in the past.  I would still get nervous before workouts and I was tired of it.  So I quit caring.  Seriously.  I quit writing down my scores in my notebook (something that I had been doing since I started CrossFit).  I quit getting so caught up in what numbers I hit on my snatch.  I quit seeing how I compared to my peers.  I told myself every day that I was going to give my best effort THAT DAY and not worry about the results.  If I felt strong I would go heavy.  If I didn't I would go light.  If I felt good I would push myself to the limit in a workout.  If I didn't I would focus on quality movement and getting the work done.  A funny thing happened.  I started to enjoy training again.  I quit waking up and immediately dreading my training session.  I quit worrying about how my score stacked up.  I started joking more during my training.  I quit worrying about missing a day if something came up.  And I quit being nervous before workouts.  Sure I still think a little bit about the pain but it's not a nervousness anymore.  I just say to myself "hey, this is gonna hurt a little bit but I'm going to do my best and it will be over soon."  And you know what?  I started to enjoy training again.  It has been years since I actually enjoyed it but I can honestly say that I do again.  Sure I'm not as fit as I have been in the past in all areas but I have actually hit PRs in some areas.  Competing at the CrossFit Games is not a goal anymore, I have other goals in other areas, but training is still a big part of my life and always will be.  I know that I will not be able to compete forever (I don't compete much anymore anyways), but I know that I will always train.  I know now that all of the pressure of training was not sustainable and if I continued down that road I might end up quitting for good.  Where I'm at now is sustainable for years and I'm excited about training again.

I hope that someone can relate to my story.  There is no reason that you should be putting so much pressure on yourself.  If you have similar feelings then I would encourage you to examine yourself.  Really sit down and think about why you are feeling nervous and what your goals are.  If you are worried so much about something that doesn't matter all that much then change your perspective.  I know that it can help you have a much more enjoyable experience in the gym.  And it will keep you coming back for years, which is the ultimate goal of CrossFit!