The Blocking Point: How Athletes Are Blocked And What To Do About It


The Blocking Point: How Athletes Are Blocked And What To Do About It

You feel blocked. Maybe your performance has gotten worse, but it's more likely that you're not improving as fast as you'd like. It is wearing you out, making it hard to go running, pedal or even recover. Everything will be fine, you tell yourself, and you force yourself to go out to the track, road or field. But it just is not happening.

You may be surprised to learn that even the best athletes in the world have problems with "the blocking point". At some point in their lives and careers, most of them have experienced it. Surviving it can be the difference between failure and success.

The blocking point is different from a plateau. The plateaus are defined by measures of progress and are a natural part of the improvement process. Although they can be frustrating, for the most part they only require patience and effective training. Blocking points usually begin as plateaus, but are of a more psychological nature: doubt or lack of patience becomes more damaging, such as anxiety, fear or self-criticism. It is when you begin to think that you are not good enough to achieve what you want. Blocking points can kill careers and professional ambition.

I will explain how the pattern usually occurs in athletes with whom I have worked. First, the athlete finds a sport or activity that he enjoys, something that makes him feel good and gives him a sense of accomplishment and success. Then, he commits to achieving that feeling of fulfillment every day. He trains hard and for longer than other people and consequently becomes skilled in that particular sport or activity. At that moment, their performance aligns almost exactly with their positive realization thoughts.

But then something happens. The athlete becomes good enough to see a reward in the future, beyond the internal satisfaction and joy that comes from performing that sport or activity in the first place. The reward is usually external and linked to the approval of other people, perhaps people that the athlete does not even know and may never know. At this point, your focus shifts from the pleasure you get from performing well in that particular sport or activity to the desire for the anticipated external reward that performance could bring you.

Love for sports or activity in itself does not matter to the athlete at this point. Start looking for external rewards as well as the approval and acceptance of others. It judges itself in relation to goals instead of taking responsibility for its performance. Work harder, but enjoy less. It will be blocked because it seems that it can not move forward, but it feels so involved in what it has achieved so far that it can not move away to find something more meaningful and satisfying, something that rewards it both inside and outside.

The blocking point happens when you no longer have a good feeling about the purpose and achievements of playing or competing.

Is it worth it?

Let me give you an example. A college baseball player was blocked. He could not live up to the expectations of his coaches, nor did he feel that he could achieve his dream of being selected and sign the contract for the hundreds of thousands of dollars that had been offered to him after finishing high school. The more we explored this story, the more evident was the moment when the problem began. Like many other athletes with whom I work, I had played excellently in a national tournament, where a scout called him aside and told him that if he continued to do so he would be selected in a couple of years.

Everything changed.

What he loved about baseball was playing with his friends, knowing that when he waved the bat freely he could achieve a one-mile hit. The idea of ​​being paid to play, that is, charging a lot of money for doing what he loved, was exciting. After his senior year in high school, he chose a university with a competitive program at the national level regarding the minor leagues.

His emotion quickly turned into anxiety when he could not perform according to expectations immediately, he did not fit into his new team and he was afraid to go to practice. She could not sleep at night and looked for ways to excuse her lack of performance, justifying her anguish and confusing her for an indication that she really cared. This was the blocking point. His life was defined by anxiety, an anxiety that he believed would only disappear when his performance improved. "It's so difficult," he used to say.

When someone comes to me with complaints about how difficult something is, I simply ask a simple question, one that this baseball player needed to answer: "Is it worth it?". Most of us do not ask this enough because we might not like the answer. We may say no and then we must take responsibility for giving up and moving forward. Usually, my experience is the opposite when I ask my athletes this question. His eyes open, they raise their heads and then they say "Yes, it's worth it", through a shy smile. Then we go back to work. The blocking point happens when you no longer have a good feeling about the purpose and achievements of playing or competing.

Six steps to detect and overcome, or even avoid, the blocking point

Step 1: Ask yourself if you would do it without charging

When they asked the Grammy-winning drummer, John Molo, how he avoided getting tired of the I played up to 75 times in a year, their response was the most effective line that I have shared with my clients: "I remember why I do it, I do not confuse what I am paid to do with what I do without charge, I am paid to dehydrate, to be away from my family, to face all the things that go wrong on the road.I play the drums without charge. "

Molo saw his practice as a time to" play the drums ", something he did without charge, to discover what is inside him, to improve one day at a time. Do you feel about training? Remember why you are doing this activity in the first place and align your training with the original reason for running, biking or exercising Do what you would do without charge define and determine the quality of your workouts, competitions and careers. Without this "freedom", the work you do without payment can dissolve into a "job" that requires remuneration and reward.

How can you protect what you would do for free without the pressure to win? A good training program It will have two components: First, it is essential that you immerse yourself in your workouts and that you enjoy each of them because you have chosen to do this activity above all other things you could do. allow it to do so, as well as each of the small advances you achieve.

Second, integrate an explosive day into your workouts, maybe once a week, and take advantage of it. See how fast you can go or how well you can play. With the passage of time, both will join in a training mode that allows you to do both at the same time. To see how far you can go, you must know where you are. Even on days when you do not notice improvements, you will be grateful for the opportunity and can look ahead and look forward to the next day.

Step 2: Define your dream carefully and align your goals with it

Dawn Staley was named national player of the year twice in the women's college basketball league while playing for the University of Virginia and winning the Olympic gold medal three times. What he told me in an interview is the second most effective line I've shared with my clients:

"Listen, I'll tell you exactly what it is, my goal is to win the gold medal in the Olympics, but the only reason why that is my goal is because my dream is to play every day against the best competitors and play to win.When I play to win, that's when I feel a resonance, and if I win, it's fantastic. gold medal as a goal forces me to play to win, but I love what I do, what my dream represents, what it means to me, is to play to win ".

Staley went on to describe how "playing to win" implies a complete commitment, the freedom to be absorbed by what he is doing, by the competition. It was the experience of playing to win, not just winning. Staley understands the difference between her dreams and her goals. If our goals are not aligned with our dreams, if they take us away from the experience of playing to win to the point where we only think about winning, we will usually end up playing "to avoid losing" instead.

Staley makes it clear that synchronizing your dreams with your goals is essential. What is your dream? Can you live it every day? If not, why not? You must make sure to align your goals with your dreams.

Step 3: Are you tired or just bored?

A friend of mine who is a professional tennis player was worn out, both physically and mentally. He had lost the joy of teaching children how to play tennis. When we first met, their serves were beautiful, a complete, long and slow movement. Like the old school. Although, as she grew older, she seemed to wear down and accepted the idea that her age was reaching her. I knew I was bored; not with teaching, but with the way he hit the ball, and that made a big difference. His business had declined.

I arrived on the court and began to serve him balls. I looked at her enough to notice the difference in her swing. Everything was shorter and smaller, specifically its reverse. His feet barely moved and he did not get to position himself in time. I asked him how he felt when he hit the ball. She did not know what I meant, so I showed her how much her swing had changed, how she no longer attacked each ball, pushing it forward and placing it exactly where she wanted it to go. Instead, he had been content to serve easy balls to his children. She had forgotten to "play" tennis and was extremely bored. I was working hard, but not well.

Work is defined by the movement between where you are and where you want to go. Anything else is just a job, and most "jobs" can be boring. If you are blocked, it may just be boredom, not exhaustion or fatigue. Quality and quantity matter, but they must work together. In the case of this tennis professional, the slight loss of movement had turned what she loved into a boring job. When he regained his beautiful swing, joy returned. Why? Because although it takes a little more time to achieve the full length swing, it also provides an emotional energy that compensates for it. His smile returned and his business recovered.

Some days you will have to work hard and give yourself time. The mistake that most people make is not to use this as a learning experience. You learned? How did you feel? How will you use it in your performance?

A good way to think about this is the difference between practice and preparation. You should think about everything you do as preparation. Do not settle for practice. Muscular memory is not enough today. An activity that you do not put your mind on will not be reflected in performance, since your mind could wander and you could develop the habit of just acting out of habit. Add quality and quantity by learning something new every time you run, pedal or swim.Work on something specific every day. Some days focus on technique, others, work on how you feel. A simple rule that I teach, and that I also follow, is that feeling bored can be confused by tiredness. When you feel tired, force yourself to work a little harder for a minute to check it out. This works miracles. If you are tired, if you need to work slower or stop, you will know that you are tired. But if you were just bored, you are likely to find the emotional energy that was missing from the exercise.

Step 4: Are you doing too much and too fast?

A junior skier from the national team approached me one morning and told me he had lost confidence in his ability to ski, which "stunk". He was new at this level of competition. He was worried about losing his place on his next trip abroad. If he really had lost confidence, he would not have come to talk to me. He knew he could improve, perform better, but he just did not know how. I told him to work on the smallest aspect of the sport he knew he could achieve and stop thinking or worry about going fast. "Do what you know, what you trust, and build on that a little bit at a time," I said.. He understood that he did not have a trust problem, that he was simply judging himself instead of trying to improve to a manageable level of skill. I was trying to do a lot and too fast.

As you become more skilled, smaller and more difficult the improvements become. The learning curve flattens. At the highest levels of performance, winning or losing can be measured in hundredths of a second or centimeters of single digits. How do you measure your success matters. To quote the former Yankees coach, Joe Torre, "Dream in small, but play big." Do this until you find your way again. Sometimes small improvements make a difference that leads to a great discovery. This is a good time to work on your technique, improve your equipment and listen to your teammates or friends who can see things that maybe you can not see.

Step 5: Find a comfortable rhythm

Once I was in a spring practice with a possible Major League Baseball player. He had had trouble getting carried away and just playing when it mattered most.

We were driving to his training and entered the parking lot. He passed the first two rows of parking spaces, which were full. The second row was only 10 feet further away.

He cursed and got angry for not being able to find a parking space closer to the entrance door.

"What are you doing?" I asked him finally.

"Trying to get a good place," he replied.

"You are trying to find the perfect space to park and you are getting angry," I said."Good Lord, we're about to start a training, and you're trying to save yourself 10 steps!"

Rio and parked in the second row. We walked to the court and watched him train on his own until the rest of the team and coaches arrived. He looked tense and was having problems with the foot exercises trying to go too fast. He had loaded the tension from the car to the field. I took his iPod and told him to find the perfect song for each workout, the correct rhythm. He knew what he was trying to say. It's what he used to do when he was at home preparing to come to spring training.

We talked about the feeling, how each training felt in a certain way and had a rhythm, and about what to focus on each exercise, running, dodging orange cones, speed exercises, as a performance, an opportunity to feel the way he liked to feel. We had talked about it before, but his frustration at finding the perfect parking space had distracted him and bothered him, and he was doing the training with the same tense energy.

"Find the feeling, feed it and follow it," I said. He relaxed, applied himself to his work and found the rhythm, just at the moment when the rest of the team and the coaches arrived to begin.

For the possible players, everything matters, not only how they play, but how they face the different exercises. The exercises are a good way to find your own rhythm again. The most successful athletes with whom I have worked know that this rhythm, or sensation, is usually reflected in their best performance. They know how to find it. They also do not allow small things, such as the hassle of finding a space to park, to take away that feeling.

If you go to a race, join friends or a trainer to exercise, or try to get up from the chair to go out to train, find the feeling of your favorite song, your favorite clothes or shoes or your favorite exercises. Get warm with the right friends or on your own, whichever is best for you. Once you find it, keep feeding it and do not let something like a parking space that is not perfect steal that feeling from you. Once you have it, follow it. Free yourself from prejudices, measurements or results and let yourself go to see where you can go. The better you get in this, the more likely that how good you feel will be an indicator of the good work you are doing.

Step 6: Energize your warm-up to eliminate tension

Syd was a mid-level high school cross-country runner who was having problems, starting to question whether she still liked to run. She told me her story and we collected data in the following weeks to see if she could help her.

He heard me talking about Easy Speed, something he had learned from an Olympic swimmer.Basically, it is going at 100% of your speed with what feels like 80% of the effort. She wanted to feel that, run faster. At first, it was difficult for her. Then one day he told me that he had gone out on his own after a bad practice and found his Speed ​​easy. The following weeks, he experienced it again and again, but almost always after practice or when practicing on his own.

It was obvious to me what was going wrong. Syd did not warm up enough before training or racing. When I told him this, he started getting warm enough to burn off any tension. When she began to make this change, she went from being a good runner to the most valuable player (MVP) of her team, and ran successfully in the state in her first year.

Tension is the number one enemy of excellent performance. Stress is natural, but stress kills performance. Tension causes a runner to shorten his steps without intending to do so. The good news is that you can "burn the tension" by preheating properly. Too many people confuse "Slack off" by simply raising their heart rate and feeling a bit of excitement, then they stop because they want to conserve their energy for the race. But tension uses more energy from your performance than you will use intentionally burning it in your preheat.

Because this principle worked with Syd, I have incorporated it into my work with athletes in other sports, including golf.

As the philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer once said, "Relaxation is not a lack of effort, but the absence of tension". Preheat until you eliminate the tension. Try to perspire.

Stress and nerves are often the reason why we perform, to prove ourselves, and being nervous is simply your body trying to break free and let go. Face the tension and you will see the difference. The blocking point is fed by the tension that never ceases. If we care what we do, we will usually punish ourselves when we do not perform or practice the way we expected. This causes tension. Although we can convince ourselves not to be tense at times, burning the tension is much more effective.

Avoiding the blocking point means taking responsibility for how you feel, remembering why to do what to do, and when you find yourself complaining about how difficult it is, remind yourself that it's worth it. Playing or competing in something that requires training and preparation is your choice.

Most people are blocked because they lose sight of what they enjoy about their sport or activity. They invest too much in pursuing something external that they want. They feel trapped. The best way to prevent this is to prepare and play to win doing what you would do without charging, doing what needs to be done and making your time and effort worthwhile.

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