Building on last week’s coach tip (where we talked about how you need to get out of your own way), this week I want to give you your next step.
Once you’ve embraced the fact that you are your own greatest obstacle while simultaneously also being your own solution, it’s time to take it one step further by naming and then embracing what you feel.
In my discussions with athletes, I am always trying to steer them toward being honest with themselves and really dialing in on what they are feeling. But, knowing what they’re feeling requires them to describe it in words. While this seems quite easy at face value, I can tell you that it can be hard to do.
So this week, I want you to think about this: Learn how to label your feelings. The next time you are feeling a certain way (such as anxious, scared, overwhelmed, etc.) or the next time you are acting a certain way, please do the following:
Take a breath.
Identify in real words what it is that you are experiencing.
In other words: Demand evidence from your feelings. Just because you feel like a less-than-stellar athlete or like you can’t do anything “well” or “right” does not mean that it is true.
We’re all humans, so it’s in our nature to be emotional. And at times, we can become consumed by those emotions. We can ride the roller coaster of those feelings and emotions without fully understanding what we are feeling or why we are doing what we’re doing. In fact, one of the most common things I hear from athletes is “I don’t know what the problem is” or “I don’t know what my problem is.”
Well, I’m here to help you all know what your problem is. By learning to describe our feelings - by using real words - we can take charge of our feelings and emotions, rather than feeling like a victim or a slave to them.
So, for example: If you have a workout that you are upset about, write (again, in actual, REAL words) WHY you are upset about it. If you can’t explain why you are upset, then I would encourage you to recognize that it’s not productive or helpful to be upset without knowing why. Once you identify why you’re upset, you can then start to make a plan of action for how to avoid this emotional situation in future workouts.
If you are struggling to get out the door and get workouts in, again, write in real words what you’re feeling. WHY aren’t you getting out the door? Is there a real reason why you’re not? Or is there an excuse?
Like we talked about last week, you have much more power than you may realize. YOU are, in fact, in charge of your own life. You are not a victim of it. Embrace this strength. You absolutely have the ability to either articulate or learn to articular what is that you are feeling and why you are feeling it.
What I’m suggesting that you do this week is hard. Confronting the truth about what we feel and why we feel it can make us feel quite vulnerable. We may not like what we hear ourselves say. But the truth is always what is best, even if it’s something we initially do not like. Confronting the truth means that we can work with the truth. Avoidance is rarely - if ever - the solution to something we don’t like about ourselves. If anything, avoidance usually makes things worse. A little discomfort now can yield comfort and peace later on. Avoidance, however, can result in SEVERE, prolonged discomfort. And you don’t deserve that.
So be brave, my friends. Confront your feelings. Demand evidence for why you are feeling and behaving the way that you are. And when you find this evidence, learn to use it to label what you are feeling and experiencing. You will learn so much about yourself, become more self-aware, and ultimately a person who feels strong, confident, and more at peace.
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.