The first post I ever published on any Untamed Fitness site was called “It’s All About the Story.”
My point—and one of the enduring goals of Untamed Fitness —was that OUR gym will give you a life worth living; that we want our members to go and DO stuff with their fitness. We love having you do 5ks and marathons; Spartans and Strongman; the “bucket list” stuff, like skydiving and doing a backflip. We can get you ready for any of it. That doesn’t mean those things won’t be scary. If you’re doing any of the Thanksgiving and Holiday races this next weekend, the nerves will probably start kicking in right about…..wait……waaaaaaiiiittttt….now.
Here’s how I’ve learned to lean into the scary stuff, embrace stress and live a better life:
First, understand that your body doesn’t know the difference between fear and excitement. They feel the same. When you start getting anxious before an event, ask yourself: “Am I actually scared, or am I just excited?”
As adults, we’re not excited often. Our body’s default response to increased blood pressure, elevated heart rate and surging adrenalin is fear. Then we fall into a downward spiral and get scared when we should really be excited.
Here’s something a mentor of mine once told me that I’ve never forgotten: In my first fight at the WKA Kickboxing Nationals last year, I was getting nervous about to step in the ring with a stranger. My coach stood in front of me as the clock was ticking down and said, “You are ready for this, everyone else is just as nervous as you are. Now you get to show off your training! This is exciting!” Now I repeat that to myself before the start of every big workout or event.
Second, know that anticipation is worse than the event.
Our fear of what might happen is always way out of scope from what actually happens. Our lizard brain takes over and our minds go to the worst-case scenario, and we run at max heart rate for three days before the event. When the event actually starts, we’re exhausted from replaying the possibilities over and over! We’ve already done the whole event—with every catastrophe included!—78 times!
Now, I am a big fan on mental preparation, which I have covered exhaustively in our New Integrated Membership Portal, but there’s a difference between planning for the worst, and catastrophizing.
Waiting, deliberating, anticipating—they’re always worse than doing. If you can choose when to start The Hard Thing, choose to start it right now. Skip the hard part. Warriors of past and present believe in the very real action of making training hell, so that the fight is easy. NOTHING will be as hard as a fight camp, as your prep work, the repetitive days of training. The easiest and most exciting part of the whole journey is the finish line.
Third, put the event in perspective: This one took me my first 10 fights to comprehend – JUST because you identify as a Winner, as a Runner or an athlete, it does NOT mean that you are not worthy in other parts of your life if it doesn’t go as planned. Just because you come in 3rd or 6th place in a race, does NOT mean it is a reflection of the rest of you. I know this sounds weird, but it is VERY easy to identify yourself with the sexiest part of your lifestyle- fighter, marathon runner, spartan racer, etc. But not doing as well as you would’ve liked doesn’t have to lead you down the rabbit hole of depression. Instead of adopting the ideology that you are a “winner first”, get into the mindset that you are a “learner over everything”. With this mindset, you can conquer any challenge, good or bad, with overwhelming confidence and learn from the experience.
It’s not worth stressing about if it won’t be remembered in 6 months, 9 months, a year, 5 years…
If you WILL remember the event a year from now, it’s REALLY worth doing.
Life is a series of moments. I often joke that “anxiety is my cardio.” These standout moments—not the daily rhythm of eating breakfast and shaving—become your story. Any story without these moments is boring. Take it from someone who tells stories for a living: Every time you go through a painful break-up, every time you grind your gears to dust on a steep climb, every time you stay up all night in fear—they’ll all make a great story that will help someone else. In the end, these are the things that matter most. Lean into them.
Inspiration provided by Amanda Buckner at untamedfitnessmma.com.