It's been a while since I've written and there's a very good reason for that. I have been fully submerged (drowning a bit perhaps) in my research for the Olympics. I have been going over the code of points, reading blogs and message boards, watching copious amounts of videos, absorbing results and recounting history. I'm definitely taking this pre-Olympic 'preparation' to the extreme, but I guess that's what I always do :) My driving force behind this prep is that I want to be ready for any situation that may come up. I feel like my hard work is paying off because I'm feeling so prepared and pumped - nearly at a saturation point. I always said as an athlete that you know you are ready to compete when training starts to get annoying. You are itching to get out there and show off to the crowd and judges. Well, I can tell you that my research is starting to annoy me - I feel like I know my stuff inside out and backwards ;) I say Bring on the Games!
I have experienced a few trips down memory lane during this process of prep. I've gotten more than a few emotional flashbacks to when I was immersed in the final preparation phase as an athlete. My most notable pang of emotion was when I saw pictures from the training hall in London. It brought back intense memories of joy, excitement and anticipation. There is NO BETTER time than right now in the life of an athlete. You are at your peak and you are on the edge of realizing a dream...
Physically, you are in great shape. Your body hurts and your mind is tired, but your desire to achieve success seems to mute any sense of pain and fatigue you may be experiencing. Excuses don't exist at this point in your preparation. You've never had a more clear reason to be dedicated and to show up with a positive attitude. You are a warrior.
Mentally, you are razor sharp and your focus is as narrow as a laser. Little distractions may try to grab some of your attention, but the narrow focus of your goal helps you push them aside quickly and easily. As an athlete, nothing is more important than being at your best at the Olympics and that sense of purpose can create a lot of momentum.
Emotionally, you are ferocious and strong, but also a bit vulnerable. Tensions are high, but you remain poised. Your life goal is on the line and although you are keeping it together, it sometimes feels like an act. You sometimes feel like crying at any given moment because of either fear, stress or pride. You are silently waiting for the straw that will break the camels back, but deep down you know it won't come because you have such a grasp on what you need to do in order to keep it all together. It's a roller coaster ride, but you are buckled in and committed to do your best at enjoying the loops and spins. You know your competitors feel the exact same way so it makes it easier.
Having been through this pre-Games experience three times as an athlete, here are some thoughts on how to manoeuvre your way through this final phase of Olympic preparation as successfully and positively as possible:
1. Stop reading the press…unless of course it fuels you.
I know that some athletes get fuelled by seeing their name in lights. If this is you, please move to point #2. Personally, I always found I needed to disengage and stop reading the articles about myself in the final weeks. It started to build up too much pressure. I didn't want to read about my journey and what was possible, I wanted to create it.
2. Limit your twitter and facebook usage.
Make your social interactions purposeful and meaningful. All energy should be spent on training, recovery and being mindful and present. Sure, share your experiences and photos/videos with your network, but don't get lost in Johnny Whatshisnames random photo album. You've got more important things to focus on and you'd be amazed at how much energy and focus mindless surfing can devour.
3. Create a positive mantra.
The Games will present you with some unexpected situations that could throw off your game. Create a positive mantra that will get you back into the right state of mind in a snap. Mine for Athens was "Make it Happen". Having something to ground you when things start spinning a bit too fast is always a good thing.
4. Trust the plan and stick to it.
I'm hopeful that at this point you've got a plan for each day of training that remains. If not, I suggest you make one and stick to it as close as possible. It's very easy to get overwhelmed and feel like you're doing too much or too little when you compare yourself to the other athletes you'll encounter while training at the Games. At this point, you know what works for you so I encourage you to stand deeply rooted in that. A common mistake I see often is when athletes (or their coaches) try to significantly increase the training intensity, but then they hurt for days after. It's easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing, but changing things at this point is not worth it. It was two years ago, sure, but not now :)
5. Reconnect to your Olympic dream.
When we are immersed in the Olympic experience, we tend to forget about that little dreamer inside of us who spent their life imagining what it might be like to actually be in this position. Do yourself a favour and reconnect to that version of yourself for a moment. It will make everything that much better...
6. Focus on the performance and let the outcome unfold.
Every great athlete I've talked to has said that their main Olympic goals are always performance based. The outcome is secondary. Sure, this may be a total coping mechanism because a medal is always in the back of every Olympians mind, but focusing on that medal as the only defining factor for success is setting yourself up for some serious post-Olympic disaster. Even if you do end up winning, you'll still feel dissatisfied if you'd don't deliver your ULTIMATE Olympic performance. Create what that performance looks like for you and visualize it often. Whether you leave the Games with a medal or not, if you know you did everything you could to be the best you're capable of becoming then you will feel like you reached the pinnacle!
Much happiness and health to all of the athletes preparing to compete in London! I'm really looking forward to seeing you there :)