I know I am not the most gifted athlete that exists. Not in my own CrossFit gym, or even in my own family. The idea that I can work so hard and consistently at something and STILL feel like I am an average athlete can, at times, be challenging. Both mentally and emotionally.
I have an extensive athletic background in soccer. I played for a provincial tier 1 team in Alberta all of my teenage years. We won many Gold medals coming in as the best team in Alberta (and sometimes Canada) year after year in our age group. I went on to play for a Canadian team in Guadalajara, Mexico when I was 17 (It was defeating getting beat by twelve-year-old Mexican girls constantly). I then stuck around and played for a Mexican team.
After my Mexican days were over I went on to play more soccer in Germany. The reason I am telling you this is because I was not an overly talented soccer player or athlete. I was really dedicated and would push myself mentally every single game I played. I worked well with a team and I was really good at my one position (right fullback). But the biggest reason I was successful, and why coaches wanted me to play for their team, was because of my recovery time; The speed I took to rebound from setbacks and mistakes. That is what made me a desirable player.
When I made a mistake on the pitch; let a striker by me who scored a goal, and I knew what I had just done… it was the immediate moments that followed that were important. I had to re-centre physically and mentally to avoid small mistakes or setbacks from spiralling into larger ones.
How fast is your recovery time?
When you experience a set back in the gym or in life how fast do you rebound back? When you experience rejection from a job you felt qualified for, when you lose your cool as a parent or when you say something hurtful to your partner – how long does it take you to re-center yourself, mentally and emotionally?
Do you prolong your recovery by obsessing over shortcomings? Do you allow the anxiety-filled thoughts of negative consequences to overcome you? Do you drown in self-pity and consider giving up? Do you sit in denial and do nothing? Let me tell you; if you think you need to feel the negative consequences of a wrong decision as a way of self-punishment you are wrong. Reminding yourself of a horrible decision, and sitting in it, for longer than ten seconds is detrimental to you. It only takes ten seconds to tell yourself: “Wow, that was not the way I wanted this to happen, I shouldn’t have done that.” Learn from it and move on. That is all it takes!
Is there a better approach?
Instead of wasting all that mental and emotional energy by prolonging your recovery time you can use that energy for a more positive outcome.
1) use the setback to learn a new skill. I know this sounds ridiculous. Who could ever take a negative experience when the onset of shame and self-pity are already starting to spiral into a small tornado in your mind and say to themselves: “I choose to learn from this.” Runner-ups don’t do this, but champions do. If you are out for a stroll through nature when a massive boulder rolls down the mountain and blocks your path, what do you do? You can explore ways of removing this boulder, or you can be creative and find an adventurous path to take around the boulder. Either way, you have just learned a new skill.
2) You can also actively accept the setback. Using the same boulder situation, you can accept the change in the pace of your planned hike. Take a seat on that boulder and enjoy the sunshine on your face and the sounds of nature. Or, turn around and cut your hike short. Acceptance is key.
If you become overwhelmed with frustration and repeatedly bang against the boulder, your recovery time will be very long.