So there you are, faced with a weight you are either not sure about, got squashed by before, never tried or were told by your Great Aunt Maud that you would never amount to much therefore you probably wont get it. Or everyone is watching you which means if you don’t get it you will look like a twat, you start talking yourself out of the lift by going all analytical or a barrage of negative thoughts come trumpeting across the hemisphere of your brain to give you a good old dose of wobbly knee syndrome, strength disappearing through your feet issue or palpitations that would shake the Great Wall of China to pieces.
The old “experts” out there who fill their empty articles full of crap because they have never competed for their country and had the infinite words “if you don’t get this we will lose the world championships” have no clue as to how this can feel and therefore are null and void with any of their hypotheses. For those of us who have stood there and had are entire souls tested in these situations fully understand that feeling.
So what is anxiety?
Simply put it is a message from your unconscious brain due to past experience, values, self worth etc that you are focusing on what you do not want. Combine this with a chemical change in the brain and signalling running through your system to now initiate a fight or flight response and release the triumphant adrenal cavalry to the rescue and you have a very nice case of anxiety.
The problem we face are the warning signals coming from our “unconscious” to beware of this as potentially for us we are staring into the jaws of potential injury, humiliation and shame (~the latter is the ego sticking its oar in). The unconscious is where all our automatic responses are held, those things that we feel we are not in control of.
In essence – we are in fact in control of them as we had to learn to respond to them in the first place, so when the brain recognition system kicks in and sees a situation where it had to protect you before then it automatically comes to your rescue and low and behold you have an entire reaction designed to keep you safe and NOT commence the lift. It is a very logical reaction even though you may think it is not and you have to remember that the brain is designed to keep the rest of your body (or the brains transportation device) safe at all times.
So – what do you do?
Firstly you have to ask yourself – what is it I am focusing on that I do NOT want? It could be almost anything, from “I’m going to drop this bar on my face” (my own personal favourite) to “you know you’re crap really so you won’t get this”. This is the hardest part – realising what it is that you are actually focusing on. The second you feel that anxiety you have to ask yourself this question. You could in fact recreate that situation in your mind and notice what it is that you are focusing on and you should still get that anxious feeling when you think about it.
Once you have identified it, let’s take my own one of “you’re going to drop the bar on your face” then you have to ask yourself what it is you DO want?
For me, I want to feel strong and controlled. I want the bar to feel manageable and I want a controlled feel through the lift and as I drive, a strong and continued line feeling the crossover into triceps response and lockout and the power feeding through from my feet and following the kinetic chain to rhomboids, rear deltoids through to the triceps on extension.
So – this is what I want and I need to choose a short phrase I can run over and over in my mind to literally block out any other conscious thoughts. This also forces you focus on what you do want, changing the signalling in the brain and producing a different physiological response. You will notice a change in the feelings you get, the anxiety will dissipate and as you focus on the feeling you do want and the outcome you want it stops the pattern of behaviour. We term this as a “pattern interrupt” technique.
It is very simple and I have used it with Premier League Footballers, power lifters, ice skaters, strongmen, runners, high jumpers, moto crossers and a vast number of different sports people I have worked with including myself.
Of course once you feel that change you then can commence the lift and remember this doesn’t just apply to lifters – this also applies to any strength and power sport where explosive movement is used and a number of other sports and issues as well.
From years of experience there are numerous other techniques I use with clients which are all designed around that client’s needs and the way they react. In reality, unless you have actually been there then it is unlikely you can advise anyone effectively and once again the myriad of “experts” appear with their theoretical knowledge based on what they “think” should work. Unfortunately this is dangerous and I have also seen the results of these idiots and had to clean up their mess with clients coming to me after an unfortunate consultation which has ended up in the client injuring themselves or at worse getting no benefit at all.
However, these techniques also depend on the client being really committed to dealing with the issue and ultimately wanting to overcome the problem. So – if you are not completely committed to change or you feel like there is something stopping you from obtaining your real performance level then more than likely there is another issue lurking underneath in the unconscious which has to be resolved and again, unless the person working with you has been there – they won’t understand or know what to look for in the issue.
Anything you use in relation to a sport with potential injury is going against your natural evolutionary instinct to protect yourself, so putting yourself into a situation of potential harm, either physical or emotional is going to produce a negative response. This “override” technique is quick and simple to use and ultimately is only as good as you are prepared to be truly honest with yourself. You may not like the answer you get when you ask yourself “ what is it I DON’T want or am afraid of happening?” but for those clients I have seen that can be brutally honest with themselves and face their demons, they are the ones who have made the most outstanding progress.
Face your demons, be honest and have real heart. That is the essence of a champion.

Author's Bio: 

Emma James MABNL, MATLTA,MABH, Dip FTST is a Trainer o Therapists, leading sport performance and bhavioural management therapist and 3 times World Champion with over 2 years international cmpeting experience.