An athlete recently asked me how to get distracting or hurtful comments made by competitors out of her head so that she could refocus on her racing.
That is a great question from the point of view of both you and the person who distracted you.
The first thing to realize is that the person who made the comment knew what they were doing, either consciously or subconsciously. In North America we are a very competitive lot and we do a lot of things to mess others up.
Now this person who did this would likely be appalled if you accused them of throwing you off your game. It is so automatic that we can’t help it sometimes. So, for starters, if the person who made the comment is hearing this, or you are someone who is prone to giving advice because you think it is helpful, don’t, because this type of advice or comment isn’t helpful.
You’ll never muzzle all the comments but instead will have to learn how to deal with them. Here are three suggestions:
1) See if you can get away for 30 minutes before your race. I call it the 30-Minute rule and it works to avoid most of the chatter. I teach various strategies you can do in this period of time – but just getting away helps. At the beginning of races this may not be possible, so certainly avoid talking to others during that time.
2) After every conversation, before you head off to do your 30 minutes of prep, take a mental shower. I imagine reaching up to pull the chain and all this imaginary water pours down and cleanses me. I’ve taught this to medical practitioners and other professionals who need to stay unaffected by some seriously sick people (and I’m not suggesting the person who made the comment to you was sick).
3) Replay the comment in your head and then “play” it backward in a way where you imagine it all garbled up. Play it forward, then backward again. Do this several times faster and faster. This is a bit like running a nail across an old vinyl LP and after a while you’ll make no sense of it. You may even forget the original troublesome comment.
So give it a try. Have fun with these strategies and see which one works best for you.
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