Friday, September 4, 2015

Beast on the Blog: Addressing Performance Anxiety

     Sport psychology is the subdiscipline of exercise science and is utilized in understanding the influence of behavioral processes on specific movement skills.  By tapping into the psychological processes taking place as we prepare for a competitive event, we can better understand and address the factors that may hinder our performance. Everyone responds differently to challenges and the possibility of failure. It all comes down to anxiety and how you overcome it in order to perform at your optimal level to achieve success. First, we must understand the definitions of the types of anxiety.

State anxiety – A subjective experience of apprehension and uncertainty. It’s a negative experience, but may have a positive influence on performance.
Trait anxiety – A personality variable relating to the probability that one will perceive an environment as threatening. Individuals with high levels of this type of anxiety exhibit thoughts of failure.
Cognitive anxiety – Negative thoughts.
Somatic anxiety – Physical responses such as tense muscles, elevated heart rate, and upset stomach.
     I’ve found that the two best ways to address these types of anxiety, are through self-efficacy and motivation. Self-efficacy refers to the level of self-confidence you have about a given skill, task or event. The more confident you are about your abilities, the less you will be concerned about certain stressors attributed to your event.
The two types of motivation are intrinsic and achievement:

Intrinsic motivation – The desire to be competent and self-determining.
Achievement motivation – Relates to the athlete’s wish to engage in competition, or social comparison.

     These types of motivation can be further broken down into the motive to achieve success (MAS) and the motive to avoid failure (MAF). The MAS athlete thrives in situations that have a 50% probability of success. The MAF athlete prefers situations that are either very easy or so difficult that they are not expected to succeed. 

     With all of this information, it’s imperative to identify the type of anxiety that best exhibits your competitive nature. Next, is to figure out whether or not you are confident in your abilities through the training you’ve done in preparation for the Beast on the Bay. Once you’ve covered that, you can then move on to how you are optimally motivated. Whether it’s through achieving success or avoiding failure, you can thrive in either state. It just becomes a matter of addressing it appropriately and effectively. You’ve put in the training and you wouldn’t be doing something as challenging as the Beast on the Bay if you were truly afraid of failure. So, have confidence in what you’ve accomplished in your training and do your best to extinguish negative thoughts. Enjoy the Beast!

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