I am a really nervous person. I’m not talking panic attack style, just a nervy tummy, banging headache and an anxious feeling. I still get butterflies before any big event, (small events) and particularly before races. I was so nervous before the Paris marathon that I made Tom take me all the way to the start, even though it meant him missing his beloved Parisian breakfast.
I’m not entirely sure what makes me so anxious. I think it’s a combination of worry that I’ll get something wrong, that I’ll embarrass myself, that I’ll hurt myself, that no-one will like me, that I will be criticised. Ultimately I have a huge fear of failing. When I was younger, I never wanted to go first, even if this meant not completing the full competition and therefore missing out on potential medals or prizes.
However, over the past few years, I have pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. I have signed up to tackle challenges that scare the crap out of me. I’ve gone to events where I don’t know a single person and met new people- some of whom I now count as good friends. I’ve tried to worry less about what other people think, and more about what I think. Overall my confidence has increased, I’ve learnt how to deal with those feelings of fear and I’ve realised dreams I would never have thought possible.
Completing 3 full marathons, and countless other races, I feel somewhat assured in my running ability. When a race entry form asks what my running level is, I confidently tick the intermediate box, knowing that I will be able to finish a race (even if it hurts or I have to walk). Knowing that I want to push myself to run harder and faster, to set scary goals is OK, because it’s running, and I know I can run. It might take me a while to get the times I want, if I ever do, but that’s also OK.
But cycling. And swimming.
They’re totally different.
On my cycle commute to work on Tuesday (thank you Tube Strike) I was overtaken by everyone. Seriously, men in suits teetering on fold up bikes, the casual Boris bikers, and women wearing heels with pencil skirts. It was a bit of an eye opener- not only have I let my activity levels slide since the Paris marathon, but I don’t have the leg strength, cycle stamina (or bum padding) to be a good cyclist yet. I naively thought that my running fitness would easily transfer to cycling and swimming fitness, but apparently not. I’m starting at the beginning, and that scares me. But in a good way.
I have a lot to learn, and that’s exciting. In order to enjoy the journey I need to overcome my competitiveness and fear of failing; so what if I come last during my triathlon, someone has to (but I will probably cry if/when I do!) So what if I get burned at the traffic lights by casual cyclists, and am practically lapped in my gyms 20 metre pool.
Not trying is always the scarier option.
Sign from www.craftynik.moonfruit.com
Its always good to test yourself and as crap as it is to be a ‘beginner’ again, just remember that you were once a beginner at running and look how much you’ve acheived!
Good luck with the cycling! Spin classes might help you build some leg strength!
Thanks for your lovely comment!
Another Watson here. I read your article with much interest on several counts but let me just point you to someone who may well be helpful for the mental nerve side of things. Adam Eason is the author of an excellent book ‘Hypnosis For Running” Although he writes this book from the perspective of a runner the ideas and techniques can be applied in any sport. He has a blog all about the subject at http://hypnosisforrunning.com/ I really think you could gain some benefit from his work.
Thank you very much, that’s really kind. Will definitely have a look at the blog!
On Saturday, I start my challenge of trying 100 different sports and fitness classes in a year. For about 95 of these activities, I will be a complete beginner and the thought of feeling those nervous and scary thoughts so frequently over the next 12 months is daunting. I agree with you though, sometimes you have to be brave and sometimes you have to just try and see what happens and where it leads to.
Good luck- sounds awesome!