Have you ever been plagued with the dreaded “what-ifs”?
- What if I choke?
- What if I drop the ball?
- What if I strike out?
- What if I can’t finish?
The “what-ifs” are endless.
One of the tools I use to help athletes build their mental toughness and resilience is simulation training. Think about a race or competition you have coming up and ask yourself these two questions:
- What are some of the biggest challenges of this event?
- What are some of the “what-ifs” running through my mind?
Based on your answers to these questions, you can create situations as close as possible to the challenging situations you might encounter and create opportunities to practice handling those situations which will help you build your confidence and quiet the what-ifs.
Oftentimes it’s the fact that you haven’t prepared for those challenges (which inevitably are your doubts, fears, and “what-ifs”) that sabotages your performance. You feel more confident in yourself when you have had previous success in that specific task. Simulation training gives you the opportunity to practice training in an environment that will be similar to what you encounter during competition so you can become more skilled at performing under pressure.
For example, I was working with a triathlete that was extremely nervous about the open water swim. He wasn’t comfortable with people swimming near him or people swimming over him during a race. He enlisted the help of a couple trusted friends to go out on a training swim with him and swim near him while he practiced the confidence and focus tools and techniques we worked on. Then the next training swim they went with him again and chose a couple times to swim over him so he could practice maintaining his confidence and focus while it happened. I also had him practice putting his goggles back on in the middle of his open water swim so he was confident in his ability to do that in case they got knocked off.
Simulation training helps you stay in the moment when challenges come instead of encountering the challenge and immediately accepting defeat. Simulation training will help you focus on the present moment and working through the obstacle versus panicking or second-guessing yourself and your ability to handle the situation. It is stress training and now instead of getting into that situation and freaking out – your brain already has the message in its memory banks – “Awesome – I know exactly what I need to do, I got this.”
It's pretty rare to have a race day or a competition go exactly the way you planned it out in your mind (I mean really … where's the fun in that!?). And obviously – you can’t plan for everything and anticipate every obstacle. However, when you deliberately think through the potential obstacles, decide how you want to respond, and then do simulation training – you will actually be more confident in your ability to handle ANY obstacle that is thrown your way – because you’re basically training your resilience.