Talk To Your Inner Competitor: Know Your Psychology To Know Your Sport
Are you motivated to achieve by external factors or internal factors? Motivated by pain or pleasure? What do you focus on or think about in the moments you need extra performance power? What we focus on, we become. What we think about shapes and creates our experience. Knowing answers to these questions will help in any area for increased performance.
Over the last ten years, I engaged in many athletic endeavors: 2002 Tacoma Golden Gloves, a novice motorcycle race, cyclocross, and marathons - each with unique driving forces and each with unique outcomes. None of the reasons I engaged these activitiets had to do with winning - they were all for personal growth, development, and a want to understand others’ interests.
Ultimately, each of these situations helped me realize my potential and capability to do anything I set my mind to. With boxing, competing was something I wanted to gain inner confidence and protective skills. I found my only mode, at that time, was diving into a well of painful life experience to get motivated during competition. And not well, I might add. Having to recreate experiences and use anger as a boost of energy was scary, and for me, it was also unnecessary and short lived. I’m not hardwired to win over another person. I’m wired to win with people, as part of a team.
Ask yourself - are you a Focused Competitor or a Peripheral Competitor? The more Focused Competitor needs a team to support them. The more Peripheral Competitor needs to become an integral part of a team.
With racing, performance was completely different. It became a beautiful act as I went beyond anger and found joy and pleasure as a catalyst for performance. I wasn’t outcome focused on “winning,” just there to enjoy the process. I found the more I relaxed, was willing to have fun and play, and encouraged other competitors to do the same, the easier the task, the more enjoyable the challenge, and the quicker the recovery. There was less strain and less effort, overall I was more relaxed.
Training for my most recent marathon helped me tap into innate areas of personal strength and resourcefulness to run my best race. Motivation came from a desire to weave discipline into other areas of my life I wasn’t feeling as steady or secure around. Fitness with finances, nutrition, and career moves. These were areas into which I needed to bring the resourcefulness from athletic training. That proved to be a great success.
Having watched many athletes agonize at their performance because they went too hard, too fast, too soon, I created a program called “Sublime Running” to help people feel their running cadence and rhythm, and know their motivation to ensure long term performance - through a 5k, a marathon, or through life. The key is to train sustainably using a modified version of the RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) scale. Ask the question, “How long can I sustain this pattern or repetition?” The answer needs to reflect the activity - whether with running a certain pace or living life a certain way.
There are some competitors who innately perform at higher levels than others. I may not be the fastest animal on the savanna, but I can still outrun many predators and run down my own dinner.
Finally, know why you compete or are embarking on any performance-based activity. Is it for the reasons that are right for you? The right reasons would grant your ability to sustain the activity for a longer period of time with success around you in all areas of life. The wrong reason may be at the expense of gratitude, enjoyment, relationships, finances, and health. Winning isn’t everything. Losing isn’t either. Find the balance for yourself, to meet your vision and your reality.
"As the physically weak man can make himself strong by careful and patient training, so the man of weak thoughts can make them strong by exercising himself in right thinking."
– As a Man Thinketh, James Allen