Friday, March 18, 2016

Using Nervousness To Win

By Hunter Allen, PCG CEO/Founder and Master Coach

 peaks coaching group hunter allen

There it is again, your old pal. It always shows up right before that big presentation at work, before you ask for that raise, and before each and every important race that you do. Nervousness. Are you nervous? Do you feel that old queasy feeling before your race? How do you deal with it? Do you get upset? Do you let it get to you? Or do you revel in the feeling and let its energy flow through your body?

If after all these years of training, and racing you still get those feelings, you’re probably in one of three camps: (1) you hate it and feel it’s the worst part of being a competitive athlete, (2) you’ve learned to deal with it and accept it as part of the experience, or (3) you’ve realized that it’s an essential part of you and your race (or project, etc.). Those in the third camp have recognized that feeling excited before a race is actually a great thing and something to look forward to. They realize that it’s just their bodies telling them their muscles are strong and ready for a peak performance. 

If you’re not in that third camp, I’d like to encourage you to recognize the inherent positive in the energy of “nervousness.” In fact, let’s stop calling it that. I think the word nervousness itself can bring on bad connotations, so I refer to the feeling as excitement instead. At some point in my career I decided to change the way I viewed excitement. I decided that instead of fighting the feeling and using essential race energy to fight it off, I would instead just let it run through my body and be used for a better performance. I’ve coached many athletes since then, and it’s interesting to see how each has a different way of dealing with this subject. 

The true professionals, Olympians, etc. are all in the third camp I mentioned above; they use the energy and make it work toward their advantage. Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Summer Sanders, and even the great one, Wayne Gretsky -- they all get excited. You just can’t tell it from watching them on TV. These top athletes have recognized the feeling of excitement as good, and they use it to raise their performance to even higher levels.

Have you ever been at a concert or gone dancing when a loud band was playing? You’re up there close to the stage, the music is good, the company is great, and you’re really enjoying yourself. It’s loud, but the rhythm is great and you can literally feel the music running through your body: the deep thump of the bass, the smooth rhythm of the guitar, the steady beat of the drums. What you’re feeling is the vibration of the music and energy coming from the instruments and the musicians themselves. You don’t resist this feeling; you just enjoy it and let it flow through your body. Bingo! You made a decision. Whether or not it was conscious, you allowed yourself to become part of the energy created by the band. 

Now, how does this relate to athletics and pre-event excitement? Well, it’s similar because when you get excited before a presentation or race, your body naturally creates energy that moves throughout your body. It’s a powerful force, so strong that many people aren’t comfortable with it at all. Many of us learned incorrectly somewhere in our past (maybe in the fifth grade) that it’s bad. Let’s say a kid is really excited before a school play because of holding a major role, only to have his belt come unbuckled during the play and his pants fall down, causing all of the kids to laugh at him. Boom, his brain now begins to associate excitement with embarrassment and failure. For the rest of his life, every time he gets excited he feels those impending signs of doom.

Your job is to change your thinking and your paradigm and to allow your mind to relax and enjoy the feeling that your body-mind connection is creating. Change the false beliefs about yourself and your body’s energy. Here’s the key: pay attention, allow yourself to let the feelings flow through you, and decide to enjoy them. Feel the energy flowing into your arms and hands and legs, through your chest, into your back, and up and down your spine. The next time you get excited, take a minute to sit back and really feel that energy. Once you’ve done that, compare it with the energy you felt when excited about a great success, maybe your wedding, your first race win, the birth of a child, a great training run, or a big promotion or raise. How does it compare? It’s the same feeling, right? It’s the same exact feeling as when you’re excited. They’re one and the same. It’s just our incorrect thought patterns and false beliefs that create a difference between the two supposedly different feelings.

The energy of your excitement is of great benefit to you in your everyday life and races; it opens you up, allows you to perform at your maximum, and gets you focused and ready for the effort. You must use it and realize how important it is to have those feelings. They’re good! Allow your body to flow with the energy. The next time you feel that excitement, you’ll know it means you’re ready for a peak performance in the office, in your training, or in your event. Recognize it, allow it, accept it as good and important, and then put it to good use.

Make it a healthy day!

 Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor ofTraining and Racing with a Power Meter and Cutting-Edge Cycling, co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He and his coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes. Hunter can be contacted directly through