The Cave

The Cave Blog

Archive for the ‘sports psychology’ Category

Intimidation vs. Inspiration

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

When you see somebody in the gym doing something that you know you can’t do, does it make you want to come to the gym less, or more?

Intimidating or inspiring?

Intimidating or inspiring?

A lot of people come into the gym and they see people doing amazing things, or just looking amazing.  And a lot of those people never come back, or they try it out for a little while and leave after they start feeling uncomfortable.  But my suspicion is that it’s not the discomfort of the workouts that drives many people away, it’s psychological discomfort; people don’t like being around others who are better than them.  It’s intimidating.

I find it very strange because from what I’ve seen, Cave people are some of the most welcoming and friendly people out there.  We are definitely not trying to intimidate new people.  I think a lot of it has to do with mental attitude.  Some people see the crazy things we do and they become intimidated.  They don’t know that we all started where they are starting (or worse off than them) and the only way we’ve come so far is through hard work.

I guess the difference is that most of us started on our fitness path through inspiration.  We saw the crazy things other people could do and we said, “I want to do that!”  And we put ourselves on track to do it.  Paulo Coelho says we use fear as an engine not as a brake.  It’s sound advice.  Don’t be scared of what you can’t do, go figure out how to do it.

What do you think?  Have you had any experiences with intimidation or inspiration in The Cave, or fitness culture in general?  What can we do to be  inspiring without being intimidating, or is that something that we have little control over?


Thursday, January 3rd, 2013
This year's resolution: do the Epic Bridge Run next year!

This year's resolution: do the Epic Bridge Run next year!

It’s the time of the year when many people commit to making some type of change in their life.  Recently, there seems to have been a backlash against the tradition of the New Year Resolution.  I get it: the stereotypical person is incapable of willpower or foresight, makes unreachable goals and gives up within a week.  But those of us who regularly push ourselves in the gym realize that it’s never a bad idea to have goals, and there’s no more natural time to make a goal than at the start of the new year.

For those of you who are interested in making a resolution, or in setting a goal for the new year, here are some ways to help you succeed.

1) Set reasonable, measurable goals. e.g. “increase back squat by 30% in 12 months,” or “come to the gym 3 times per week, no exceptions.”  Don’t make amorphous goals like “lose weight,” or “get in shape.”
2) Create a plan. Use “micro-goals” to keep you on track.  Include ancillary, supportive, and synergistic micro-goals. In the back squat example, you might include an ancillary goal of increasing your caloric intake by 15%, or doing hip mobility work 3 times per week. Tie this in with:
3) Consult experts. Pick the brain of somebody who has completed the goal, or talk with somebody who is a subject matter expert.  Find out what to expect and have them help you create a plan and micro goals.
4) Develop a system of accountability. Share your goals with other people and check in with them so you have outside pressure to succeed.  Find somebody else who has a similar goal and help them accomplish it. Sometimes motivating somebody else is the best way to motivate yourself.
5) Eschew things that are detrimental to your goal. If you’ve committed to come to the gym 3 days per week, make sure you avoid staying up late, eating crappy food, etc.
6) Be honest with yourself, especially when you find yourself making excuses.  If you have a legitimate reason, change your goal.  If it’s an excuse, suck it up and stop trying to lie to yourself.
7) Be patient. Keep you eye on the real goal: becoming a better person.  Even if you don’t complete your goal on time, chances are good you have made improvements.

What do you want to accomplish this year, both inside and outside of the gym?  How are you going to go about accomplishing it?

Another Thing to Be Thankful For

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

There is a lot to be Thankful for, including old friends whom you haven’t heard from in ages who text you “Happy ThanksGiving” around this time of year.  Talking about flashbacks from the past, here are a few from our blog, followed by the subject matter of today’s blog.

ThanksGiving feasting by Roger (2009):

There’s a Lot to be Thankful for by Andres (2010):

Holiday Shopping by Marisa Lee:

What Doodad to get This Holiday Season by Andres:

Family Eats Paleo This Holiday Season by Karen Minot:

One thing I’m thankful for is my ability to move, that is my skills, the things I can do.  (Probably best showcased by my 2010 American Ninja Warrior submission video, here) Nothing makes me more acutely aware of these great gifts than when they’re missing or “on hold” due to sickness or injury.  Lately my back has been a bit tweaky so I’ve been borderline between having them and not.  Three years ago I seriously injured my back to the extent that I was bed ridden and it was a horrible struggle to simply roll over in bed let alone get up to go to the bathroom.  During the injury I realized how easy it was for me to take for granted everything I can do and how lucky I am to have my body and to be able to explore all of it’s capacities.  I love movement and the adventure for exploring and learning that it brings. Sometimes while coaching a birthday party or Ninja Warrior summer camp, I like to play a related name game with the kids.  We often do “your favorite flavor ice-cream” for name games but I prefer “something you can do and a skill you’d (realistically) like to be able to do someday”.  So this Thanks Giving I think we should play a similar skillz game.  Tell me your name and “something you’re greatful that you can do” and “something you’d like to be able to do in the future”.  I’ll go first.  I’m greatful that I can do big precision jumps (there was one at the end of that Ninja Warrior submission video, if you watched it) and I’d like to be able to stride from the mezzanine all the way accross the pull-up rig some day (hopefully soon).  And I’ld like to have my heavy snatches back, at least when my back feels better!  What skill are you greatful for?

What Do These Two Videos Have in Common?

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Ok Cavers, I’d like you to carefully analyze these two videos and try to figure out why they are “the same”.  This is very important for your skill development.  Watch closely.

Video A:  This one is a very good video demonstrating a “Squat-on” in a preschool gymnastics class.  (I know, the little girls are amazingly cute.  We have that same kind of cuteness in our gym. )

OK, now how is Video A the same as Video B, with Ninja Warrior veteran and Cave gymnastics & parkour coach JB Douglass (more on our newest coach to follow in a subsequent blog post) demonstrating this little “Double Kong”.  That is Seraphina Schinner’s (ok,.. Michael & Miyoko Schinner’s) yellow pickup truck that you’re looking at and that is me in the background.  Check this out.   Video B:

OK,… think about it… now I’ll give you some space so you can figure it out without reading the answer below.





…….  Did you figure it out…?

…….. Ok, I’ll give you a little more time…

……… OK, now?…..

……… Here’s the answer:

If your skill level is exactly the same as demonstrated in the squat-ons on Video A, or exactly the same as demonstrated by JB in Video B, or somewhere in between, then you are ready and perfectly capable of participating and completing the American Ninja Warrior Seminar at The Cave on Sunday Nov. 4th from 8:30am-2:20pm.  It is also the perfect place to employ all that fitness and skill that you’ve been working on by training that explosive hip extension, those kipping pull-ups or if you’ve been working gymnastics skills.  Few things could be more fun than exploring new movements in an obstacle course coached by a dozen Ninja Warrior Veterans.  Come meet and train with the celebrities at The Cave.  More details can be found here.  The current pre-registration price is $75 and you can sign up online.  There may also be a couple of slots left for the kids’ session on Nov. 3rd.  Additional details can be found at:   I know that a bunch of Cavers wanted to come this weekend but had scheduling conflicts.  We’re looking into scheduling another one around April 2013.   By the way, another similarity between the videos is that both the little pre-school girls and JB are overcoming obstacles with just the power of the human body, specifically referred to as vaulting in this case.  Also, the squat-ons are at the beginning of a progression that turns into Kongs and later double Kongs.  I hope you enjoyed the videos, and by the way, here are the answers to last weeks American Ninja Warrior trivia:

Who is this Parkour phenom on the American Ninja Warrior IV Course?

Who is this phenom on the American Ninja Warrior IV Course?

1>  Name the Caver depicted in the “cover” picture of the May 8th, 2012 American Ninja Warrior Workout Men’s Health article show here:

Andrey Pfening. He coaches at The Cave on Wednesdays & Fridays regularly, when he’s not subbing or planning out spectacular class programming and obstacle courses.

2>  Name the obstacle that he is on.

Pile Slider

3> What “stage” of the competition is it in and what obstacle on course?  (Ergo, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th,… etc.)

2012 ANW Venice Beach qualifiers

4> What region did he compete in and where was the competition held?

The “Great North West”, as one famous comentator put it.  Venice Beach

5> What discipline does he specialize in?  Parkour, of course!

6> How far did he get in the competition, ergo, what obstacle  (if any) did he fall on?  He fell about 1.5′ past the spot where he is on the picture, before the dismount to the pipe slider

7> Who were the commentators for his run?  Jonny Mosely & Matt Iseman, of course.  I hope I’m spelling their names right.!

Ok,… so,… how about this guy?  (This picture was used on buddy TV:

as well as Monsters & Critcs:

Can you name the Cave Ninja??

Can you name the Cave Ninja??

1>  Name the Caver depicted in the picture above.  -  That’s me, Andres De la Rosa

2>  Name the obstacle that he is on.  Arm Rings.

3> What “stage” of the competition is it in and what obstacle on course?  (Ergo, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th,… etc.)  Venice beach Regional Finals Course, 7th obstacle.

4> What region did he compete in and where was the competition held?  North West, Venice Beach.

5> What discipline does he specialize in?  None.  I’m not a specialist.  I’ve done them all, just about.

6> What obstacle during the competition(s) (if any) did he fall on?  Trick question.  Did not fall!  Finished course with 6minutes + change., which was the slowest run of the athletes completing the course.  Note to self: don’t stop to stretch on the course because you’re tired!

7> Who were the commentators for his run?  Matt Eiseman & Johnny Mosely, same as for Andrey

Come train with both of these Cave Ninjas and many more of the ANW 4 Celebrities at the Cave on Nov. 4th.  Read more here:

I hope you guys can make it.  All I can promise is how much fun it can be!

So,… other than the blog0-post coach being a little bit of a pain in the ass, I hope that all is well and that you’re all having a fantastic experience at  The Cave.


What the hell is a “Goat?”

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Last week, we had “work on goat” as part of every class.



Most of you figured out that, since we’re not a boxing gym, goat doesn’t mean Greatest Of All Time.  In CrossFit, a goat is something that you suck at.  It’s usually a skill that you should be able to do, but you just haven’t put in the time to get good at it.  Skills like double-unders, muscle-ups, and overhead squats are common goats.  We worked on our goats all last week because it was “recovery week,” and we occasionally need to take a break from doing hard training and focus on skills that we need to improve.  I’m hoping that everybody got some work on their goats last week, and suck at least a little less.
But… why do we call them a goat?  Is it because they have horns?  (Doesn’t really make sense)… Or because they’re stubborn?!  Being a part of the CrossFit community for several years, the best explanation that I’ve heard comes from CrossFit Toronto:
goat /gōt/

n. Slang

Someone who is blamed when things go wrong.


  1. Sarah made Michael the goat for the broken lamp.
  2. The goalie was the goat in the 1-0 soccer match.

Etymology: ‘Goat’ is short for ‘scapegoat’, which is a person or thing that is given all blame or responsibility for a negative event. A ‘goat’ is the opposite of a hero

Synonyms: fall guy, patsy

Now it makes sense.  You got a terrible time on “Annie” because there are double-unders in it.  Double-unders are your fall-guy, your excuse, your scapegoat… your goat.

In keeping with the spirit of my post earlier this week, if you have an excuse it’s because you’re not working hard enough.  If you suck at double-unders, you should practice them.  There’s no law saying that you can’t do a few reps of your goat in the warm-up, or that you can’t come in early or stay late to work on them.  Figure out what your goats are and work on them.  Get better!

Why Your Excuse Sucks

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

I’m going to talk about excuses for a few minutes.  Some people are going to be offended.  Sometimes the truth hurts.  Your excuse sucks.  That’s the truth.  Whatever excuse you have, it just sucks.  An excuse is a lie that you tell yourself to make you feel better about limiting yourself.  I’m not talking about a legitimate reason for not doing something, that’s a different thing.

No excuses in here.

No excuses in here.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Kyle Maynard, go look him up.  I don’t reference him to try to make you feel guilty, I reference him to show you an example of a guy who doesn’t have excuses.  Kyle might have thought, when he was younger, that he had a legitimate reason to avoid physical activity; what could he actually accomplish without arms and legs?  But he realized that his disability was just an excuse to avoid hard work, and that his disability didn’t mean he got a free ride.  It meant he had to work harder than everybody else just to keep up.

The same is true for you and me, whatever our excuses are, and I’ve heard tons of them.  Here are some of the most common:

  • My back/ knee/ foot/ shoulder/ etc. is messed up, or my body just doesn’t move that way.
  • I’m too old.
  • I just don’t have the time because I have work/ pets/ kids/ obligations.

These are excuses that you use to limit yourself.  Let’s talk about them one at a time.

Injuries.  If you have an acute or chronic injury, you have to work harder to keep up with everybody else.  That does not mean that you need to run on your busted foot, or do heavy lifts with the herniated discs in your back.  What it does mean is that you have to put in the work to rehabilitate yourself.  It might mean seeking out doctors, chiropractors, and physical therapists.  It might mean doing rehab and mobility work multiple times every day.  It might mean changing your diet and sleeping patterns, or changing how you do basic activities.  It might mean that you have to do things that are harder than the thing you need to avoid.  Just because you’re injured or immobile doesn’t mean you get a free ride, it means you have to work harder to keep up.

Age.  If your excuse is that you’re too old, then you might as well just give up and die.  Getting older is normal, it’s how you know you’re still winning at life: the difficulty setting increases.  There is or there will be a time when you feel like you’re not as good as you used to be.  That’s okay.  But it’s not okay to use it as an excuse for not doing something or for not trying as hard as somebody younger than you.  If you’re old and stiff and messed up, then you need to put in more work to maintain yourself.  Fix your diet, do your stretches, break your bad habits.  Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you get a free ride, it means you have to work harder to keep up.

Obligations.  If you’re using your kids as an excuse for not taking care of yourself, maybe you should consider how your kids would do without you, or with a you that is constantly tired, injured and sick.  Your family should be the reason that you take care of yourself, not your excuse to slack off.  (Ask Bill Berry about that).  Work is a bad excuse too.  Guys, this isn’t 1890 and none of you are mining coal or laying railroad.  Whatever you’re doing isn’t that bad.  You just have to change your habits and learn to stand up from your desk and stretch 3-4 times per day, do a workout at home or in the hotel while you’re traveling, pack your lunch, go to bed early, take an actual rest day, or whatever it is that you need to do.  It isn’t easy, but you don’t get a free ride just because you have kids, a hard job, or other obligations.  You have to work harder to keep up.

Now that you know why your excuse sucks, go do hard work.  See you in the gym.

The Sticking Point

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

Typically when athletes pick up a new activity or start practicing a new skill, there is a period of time when the improvement and breakthroughs come often and without all that much effort, reltatively speaking.  This applies to different activities such as gymnastics, parkour, CrossFit, martial arts, or team sports.  You can learn new moves, gain strength and see vast improvements and PR’s for months if not years.  Later, though, there ususally are more “sticking points”.  These are the periods when it doesn’t seem like you’re improving at all.  You may be trying to bust your ass just as hard or even harder than ever before, but you may not see any improvements and you start wondering if you’ve peaked and whether you’re ever going to get better.  These are the periods that really test an athlete’s determination, passion, and their commitment to their sport.  When we first start something there are so many “psychological rewards” when we acquire new skills, see quantum leaps in our lifts or break personal records that we can’t wait to go back to practice.  That’s the easy part.  What differenciates the “good” from the “extraordinary” is dedication, commitment and ability to keep improving.  That’s when the difference is in the details.  We need to put in the “extra credit”, push through the dreary days and add the extra intensity, study master athletes and refine our own techniques and movements with theirs, dial in our nutrition and be protective of our rest times.  It also helps to put ourselves in new competitive situations where we can force ourselves to perform at a higher level than we would otherwise.  These are some of the things that can help you break through the “sticking points” where you might have stopped seeing improvements and may even start wondering if you have the fire and motivation to keep going or ability to improve.  Of course, the most important thing is to never give up if you love what you do.  If you don’t, then go find something that you do love and that you can be passionate about and don’t waste your time.  Post to comments if you’ve ever had to deal with a “sticking point” and how you handled it.

“THERE ARE NO COMPETITIVE FEMALE GYMNASTS OVER 20 YEARS OLD”, Dad, You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About, and My New Pair of Climbing Shoes

Saturday, August 4th, 2012
It was another typical night at the Davis household in San Francisco. (Warning, if you read this blog post, you may get a glimpse inside my family life.) My parents are interesting folks. I really love them a lot, but sometimes they, and particularly my dad Russell, can be, ummm…. rather opinionated. ( I have two dads. My father in Venezuela, who I hope to see later this year in October, is completely different than my American dad. I guess my mom went from one extreme to the other. ) On Friday night I found myself at my parents’ sharing with them the experience of watching the Olympic Games and Michael Phelps win his 17th gold medal in the 100M Butterfly. We also watched Katie Ledecky crush the field in the 800M women’s freestyle. The girl is only 15 years old. “It sure is stupid that they have the minimum age for competing in the Olympics as 15!” he muttered. “No it’s not.” I retorted. “There’s a good reason for that.” “And what could that possibly be?” was his reply. “Well, to prevent child abuse!” Having experience coaching kids, I know that parents and coaches can be overbearing enough and put enough pressure on a child to cross the line into child abuse. My dad disagreed. He made a good case about the rule preventing a gymnast like Alexandra Raisman from having more than “one shot at it” because she wasn’t eligible to compete in the last Olympics at age 14 and that she’d be too old to be competitive at age 22. “There are plenty of gymnasts in their 20’s.”, I replied. “Not at a competitive level.”, he assured me. I disagreed. I knew, however, that none of the Fab Five were over 20 years old, and I didn’t know the gymnasts from the other countries, but I challenged him to a bet. I was initially thinking a pint of ice-cream. (Most of you know that I’m not paleo, but I am trying to eat more vegetables!) and later I tried to angle for climbing shoes, but since my dad couldn’t think of what he wanted as a counter-bet, since he already has everything. So in the end we settled for $100. I think the results are interesting since they address the question “How old is too old to compete at the highest level?”, or at least for female Olympic gymnasts with… errr… good teammates.
USA: 5 teenagers
   Jordyn Wieber: 17 y/o
   Gabrielle Douglass: 16 y/o
   Kyla Ross: 15 y/o
   Alexandra Raisman: 18 y/o
   Mc Kayla Maroney: 16 y/o
Russia: 4 teenagers & 1 20 y/o
  Ksenia Afanaseva: 20 y/o: ranked 8th on beam & 11th on floor out of 24 scores
  Anastasia Grishina: 16 y/o
  Victoria Komova: 17 y/o
  Aliya Mustafina: 17 y/o
  Maria Paseka: 17 y/o
Romania: 3 teenagers, a 22 y/o & a 24 y/o
  Diana Laura Bulimar: 16 y/o
  Diana Maria Chelaru: 18 y/o
  Larisa Andreea Iordache: 16 y/o
  Sandra Raluca Izbasa: 22 y/o ranked 8th on vault & 2nd on floor out of 24 scores
  Catalina Ponor: 24 y/o ranked 8th on vault, 1st on beam & 5th on floor out of 24 scores
China: 1 teenager & 4 20 y/o’s
  Lu Sui: 20 y/o ranked 2nd on beam & 8th on floor
  Jinnan Yao: 17 y/o
  Qiushuang Huang: 20 y/o ranked 10th on vault, 7th on bars, 16th on beam & 23rd on floor
  Kexin He: 20 y/o ranked 2nd on bars
  Linlin Deng: 20 y/o ranked 11th on vault, 17th on beam & 19th on floor
Canada: 4 teenagers & 1 20 y/o
  Victoria Moors: 15 y/o
  Dominique Pegg: 18 y/o
  Kristina Vaculik: 20 y/o ranked 16th on bars & 20th on beam
  Elsabeth Black: 16 y/o
  Brittany Rogers: 19 y/o
Great Britain:
  Imogen Cairns: 23 y/o ranked 22nd on vault & 18th on beam
  Jennifer Pinches: 18 y/o
  Rebeca Tunney: 15 y/o
  Elizabeth Tweddle: 27 y/o ranked 1st on bars and 15th on floor out of the field of 24. 
  Hannah Whelan: 20 y/o ranked 19th on bars, 15th on beam & 14th on floor
Italy & Japan also had athletes older than 20, which rounded out the last two countries that made it to the finals.  So as you can see, the field was dominated by teens, but there were plenty of athletes in their 20’s on the top 7 women’s team with 24 year old Catalina Ponor ranking 1st on beam and 27 year old Elizabeth Tweddle ranking 1st on bars!  Among the top 6 teams there were no athletes in their 30’s.  It would be interesting to do a similar analysis of the ages of competitive CrossFit Games athletes or American Ninja Warriors.  Admittedly elite gymnastics takes a strong toll on the body which wears on older athletes, but an even stronger consideration as a factor is that many athletes who have had that Olympic experience are often satisfied with having had it and moving on to other concerns and stages of life.  In any case, I have $100 that I’ll soon be using to buy a new pair of climbing shoes!  Thanks Dad!

Code Red Surfing, Emotional Control and other “Time to Fly” moments

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Last week I wrote a blog post titled “Mental State and Competitive Performance” which briefly discussed controlling your emotional and mental state in anticipation of competition.  Jacqui asked the obvious question, “…but how do you “practice” controlling your emotions before a competition?”  A couple of ideas come to mind.  First and most obvious would be putting yourself in competition situations often so you get better at dealing with your emotions from the experience.  This is how rookies become veterans.  Of course, you may be a rookie and want to get some of that experience before your big competition.  In this case you can set up smaller mock competitions with your friends and gym-mates that may have some of that “go time” feeling to them.  You may also want to try visualization exercises where you see yourself in that high pressure situation and try to create the atmosphere in your mind and  to bring yourself to the emotional state that you want to be in at that moment.  One of the things that I would suggest as a long-term habit is regularly placing yourself in new high-pressure situations where you’re going to be nervous trying something new or even slightly dangerous but where you’re still likely to succeed.  Gymnasts, traceurs and rock-climbers do this all of the time when they’re trying a new trick, parkour move or climbing route.  My old gymnastics training partner used to say things to the effect of “o.k., now I know I’m doing real gymnastics” whenever he started feeling the butterflies fluttering in his stomach.  Of course, “real gymnastics” in this context basically meant he was trying something far enough out of his comfort zone to be scared.  One way to keep this fear from controlling you is to “look past it” or your relation to it, and focus exclusively on the movements, mechanics and body positions themselves.  If you can make yourself do the moves, you’ve achieved the skill, fear or no fear.  There is a level of mental control over your emotions that you have to start getting a grip over when you’re putting yourself in this type of situation.  There is a point where you know what you have to do and  you know you can do it and how to do it, but still, you’ve never done it before.  At that point you just have to go for it and once you do you’re committed, there’s no going back and you know that the biggest obstacle is your own head and self-preservation instinct screaming at you to stop.  As a matter of fact, if you do try to stop or “go back” once you’re “in”, then you’re in real trouble because you’re a lot more likely to get hurt; there’s no hitting the breaks in the air.  It’s time to fly.  It really is a beautiful and frightening feeling, and when you start “getting used to it”, although you never really get used to it, you realize that you’ve started to attain an ultimately desirable level of self-mastery, and you can do it again more easily and apply this self-mastery to other skills.  Nevertheless, you still have to be careful not to get too cocky because you can still get hurt or die if you make a mistake.   It’s always seemed to me that this emotional control applies well to competition situations, at least from self experience and observation of most other people with similar skills, nevertheless I do know at least one excellent and naturally talented gymnast and one amazing lady-rock climber who kind of freak out and aren’t all that good at high stake competition situations but perform extremely well when they’re just practicing their disciplines, so I guess it must not apply universally.  Also, people can get comfortable taking new risks in their “field”  but may experience more serious mental blocks in something that is similarly frightening in a different discipline.  I for one am far more comfortable working through gymnastics progressions, taking that last leap for a big precision jump, or even taking that sixteen foot fall on a lead rope climbing outdoors, but when it comes to going over the edge of even a five or six-foot wave while surfing, oh my God, that really freaks me out.  It feels like I’m plunging over a rolling cliff that is about to toss me into an unknown abyss.  I’m just not used to it at all.  So to me the guys in the following video have achieved close to the consummate level of emotional and mental control.  This has got to be one of the scariest things a human being could possibly do.  You have to have absolute commitment, and you know you’re going to fall and a mountain of water is going to take you for a roll and you may die, but you do it anyways.  This is truly amazing.

I remember a defining character-building moment of my youth.  I was about 10 years old and we were on our way to a camping and backpacking trip in Yosemite with the San Francisco Police Activities League (PAL) youth program.  We stopped along the way at a pool spot along a river that our instructors were familiar with.  At this spot the river widened enough for the current not to be too strong and there were a lot of folks who were bathing or lounging about at the pool spot.  Some of them were diving or jumping off of a rock that may have been about twenty feet over the water.  I remember telling our guide who was a great mentor to me, Walter Scott, that I was going to jump off that rock into the pool.  He said that it was fine and that he would watch, but once I was at the top of the rock my legs literally froze in place and I could not move, I was so scared.  I knew that it wasn’t high enough to be unsafe and that the pool was deep enough and that the people who were there to take care of me could pull me out of the water if I needed it, but changing that knowledge into self-confidence was a completely different matter.  My friends counted me down at least a dozen times while I had at least that many false starts up at the top of that rock.  Finally, after about twenty minutes of waiting Walter gave me “one last chance” at least three times and then waved me down.  It was time to go and everyone was packing up.  I was so disappointed in myself.  I just wasn’t brave enough.  I slowly turned around to walk back down the way I came up when I suddenly told myself  ”No.  I’m going to do it now.”  I turned around and ran right over the edge of that rock and as I felt that I had nothing but air underneath my feet I was regretting that last step, looking over my shoulder to see how far away the ledge was but it was too late to get back.  It was time to fly.  My regret immediately turned to thrill as I dropped and plunged into the freezing cold water.  I easily swam to the shore and saw Walter Scott’s concerned and curious look as he asked me if I was O.K.  ”I’m Great!” was my strong reply.  I couldn’t have possibly felt more alive and excited.  During my childhood that moment always reminded me that I was brave and I could make myself do what I decided to do if I really wanted to.  It helped form my self-perception for years to come and since then I’ve had a lot more practice.  Special thanks to my P.A.L. instructor Walter Scott for the contribution he gave to the lives of so many children growing up, privileged or otherwise.  I think that the moral of the story is to regularly put yourself in new and scary situations “outside your comfort zone” where you have to control your nerves and where you have to learn something new about a discipline, skill or maybe just about yourself.  Make it a part of your life’s history, just as it is part of the history of human beings and our struggle in life and survival.  Just be careful not to get yourself killed.

Mental State and Competition Performance

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

When you are getting ready to compete it is very important to be aware of and in control of your mental state.  Before competitions I often see people freaking out with nerves or sometimes detrimentally working themselves up into such an anxious-frenzied state of adrenaline that they wear themselves out like a fire cracker right as the competition starts.  Usually more experienced veteran athletes stay more calm, focused and controlled.  Of course this also depends on what type of performance or activity is going to be performed during the competition.  I think that it is a lot more beneficial for a power-lifter to work themselves up to a heightened-frenzied  state of arousal with as much adrenaline as he/she can muster right before performing a max dead lift than it would be for an gymnast before performing a high-bar routine.  Another consideration would be the duration of the event or performance.  Said power-lifter may only need to sustain their mental/emotional state for a few seconds until the lift is complete whereas a baseball pitcher would have to not only pitch, but calculate and strategize dozens if not hundreds of throws through the duration of a baseball game where a heightened state of emotional frenzy would not be sustainable.  I myself usually like to feel at least a little nervous yet lucid and calm before a competition.  If you don’t feel nervous at all, (which on occasion I don’t) you may not have all of the power and energy that would otherwise be at your disposal, yet on the other hand feeling overly worried or scared may wear you out and can get in the way of your execution, coordination and thought process during complex skills.   So be sure to practice controlling your level of mental and emotional arousal as part of your training for high-stakes performances.  Please post any questions, thoughts, or musings to comments.

What does YOUR game face look like?

What does YOUR game face look like?