Have you ever done something and found yourself catching on and improving so rapidly that it shocked you a little? And then, because it was almost effortless you amp it up and really go and you just know the results are going to be out of this world!
But… instead you get worse.
I can’t tell you how many times in my career I’ve faced this problem. I do something in practice or in a competition not expecting much or not really thinking it’s the time or place to produce great results and I shock myself with where I’m at. I’ve literally jumped a personal best at a meet and walked away from the sandpit without looking at the mark, thinking it was an average jump, and had people yelling me from the stands to turn around and look at the results board. But as soon as I go in to make it happen mode, I lose it. Me actively trying to try harder, almost never gets me better results. Implicitly I know this, yet it has yet to stop me from repeating the cycle. The very idea of trying too hard is something that may seem counterintuitive in athletics but if you’re an athlete then you probably know exactly what i’m talking about. You run a sprint and the time on the stopwatch is blazing. “Wow”, you tell yourself, “that felt so easy, almost like I wasn’t even trying that hard.” So, you head back to the line thinking to yourself that this time you’re going to bring it. You huff and you puff and 9 times out of 10, you will run slower.
After indoor season I took a moment to recompose and then started doing some heavy training to build me back up and get ready for outdoors. My legs felt like two cement blocks and I didn’t think speed knew my name. But I got on the runway for my first couple long jump sessions and I was flying. My jump sessions were phenomenal and it surprised me a little bit. After a few weeks, I started adding in some good speed work and I thought to myself, “if things were going this well and I wasn’t even expecting it or ready for those kinds of results, I’m more than likely going to start jumping world records in practice now that I’m really going to go after it.”
And I’m sure we all see where this is going. I have been a frustrated fool these last couple of weeks as my intense desire to muscle and strain my way to phenomenal jumping and running has given me anything but. I was trying to force it, and you simply can’t do that. Letting yourself be amazing is different than making yourself be amazing and more often than not, all you will end up doing is tripping yourself up by trying to try. Once you know how to do something, be confident in that. All you need to do now is let it come out. If you (or anyone you know) is a superb practice athlete but never does as well in competitions, I assure you this is your problem. You have to relax and get back to that calm confidence where you allow yourself to just let it happen.
So, this will be lesson #872 of the exact same lesson, but the good thing is it takes me less and less time to recognize the problem and address it. Early on in my career I spent entire seasons dealing with this exact same problem, but didn’t know what was really going on. Now I do. And I can assure you that if I’m doing well one week and then all of the sudden I seem to lose it even though my body feels fine, I didn’t all the sudden become untalented. I just started thinking too much and I have to remind myself in essence to dumb it down a little and stop trying so hard. And it works.