Confidence and High Intensity Performance

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by GREGG SWANSON

Confidence and High Intensity Performance

Sound familiar? “You want to be confident, since you know this is critical to your athletic performance, but you don’t know what to do to build your confidence.”
I know we just moved out of ski season, but skiing has so much to teach us about mental strength, confidence and confident athletic performance. So I’m going to begin this post with a reference to skiing.

Before I begin, you may be thinking, What does this have to do with CrossFit or high intensity workout and performance? In a word…everything. Take the below information and “translate” it into CrossFit speak and you’ll see how these tips will transfer into peak athletic performance.

Ok…back to the story…

There you are in Lake Tahoe, Park City or perhaps Mammoth Mt. You’re standing at the top of a black diamond run and trying — to no avail — to convince yourself that you can ski a clean run. You keep telling yourself “be confident” and “I can do it,” but it doesn’t seem to help your confidence or your performance.

Instead the voice in your head is telling you, “You haven’t had a clean run all day, so why should this run be different?” Typically, you get about halfway through the moguls when you start to tighten up because you just know you’re going to miss a turn and either take a spill or have to stop. You want to be confident, since you know this is critical to your athletic performance, but you don’t know what to do to build your confidence. So you stop, head off to the lodge and grab a hot drink and sit by the fireplace.

As an athlete in any sport, this situation probably rings true for you (except perhaps the part about the fireplace). It might show up each time you are challenging yourself to successfully complete a more demanding task, try a new maneuver, or to push through whatever is holding you back.

To do so successfully requires that you believe you can do it. But how can you be confident when it’s something you haven’t tried before or haven’t successfully accomplished? In this post, I’ll address the difficult mental strength topic of confidence and give some ideas about how you can begin to build and control your confidence immediately!

What is Confidence?

What is Confidence?

Keep this in mind the next time you’re apprehensive about attempting a new skill or one that you’ve been having difficulty with: your apprehension doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.
To better understand confidence, I’d like to make reference to a quote from a newspaper article from several years ago. Michael Jordan had started a specific basketball game going 0 for 9. The reporter asked MJ after the game why he kept asking for the ball instead of ditching it to a player who had a hotter hand,since he was obviously having an off night. Michael’s comment was simple — he said he is not and never has been an 0 for 10 shooter, so the next shot had to go in! What confidence in the face of seeming failure. Whereas most athletes in his situation would be hesitant taking more shots, Michael didn’t allow this “failure” to affect his next shot; he maintained his belief in his ability to make a basket on his next shot.

Simply put, confidence is your belief in your ability to succeed. While you probably already know that confidence is critical to performance, further support of this belief is found through research on élite athletes; high confidence is a skill that consistently characterizes élite athletes. However, being confident doesn’t mean that you never doubt yourself. In fact, highly confident élite athletes still report negative thoughts and concerns about performance.

Being confident relates to performing well despite such concerns and negative thoughts. Keep this in mind the next time you’re apprehensive about attempting a new skill or one that you’ve been having difficulty with: your apprehension doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.

Unfortunately, confidence can be a difficult concept to get one’s head around; it is a state that often times seems elusive and fleeting. One dropped pass, one missed shot, or one bad run and your confidence can drop faster than the Hindenburg.

Because of this, athletes (and especially coaches, too) often perceive that confidence is something you either have or you don’t have. The reality is that confidence, just like other physical or mental strength skills, can be learned, built upon and controlled. Sure it’s simple to understand, but it’s not an easy task to accomplish.

We understand and know how confidence relates directly to personal success and athletic performance, and we also know it is a mental strength skill that you can learn. The question you’re probably thinking now is “What can I do to bolster and build my confidence and have some control over it?”

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