Comfort Zone

My husband is into podcasts and videos which emphasize self improvement. He loves thinking outside the box, so we really get to share the intricacies of how the mind works as an athlete and in everyday life.  He was watching a video about cold showers and how they can be just the beginning of helping you get out of your comfort zone. It inspired me to write about comfort zones and why it has made a difference in my sport and life!

  • What is a comfort zone and why it is important for sport and life?

From my experiences a comfort zone is where you feel most at ease, and without stress. It's about creating consistency in our lives, which helps minimize risk. Sometimes, we start recognizing that staying comfortable is creating more harm than it is helping. Or we recognize that we are creating a comfort zone in order to shy away from the fear of failure, so we start holding ourselves back. It can be in your daily routine, your work/school/athlete life, even with friends and family.

We are naturally drawn to routine and security. That concept has been ingrained in us since... cave man days! Thus creating a survival routine equals safety. It takes no time to fall into this type of routine, and a lot of work to make a shift in our habits. Despite this hardwiring, we can shy away from discomfort and create change and improvement in our lives. Without the storm, you wouldn't understand the calm afterwards. And the same is true with our lives, we often don't begin changing until we go through a challenging or painful experience.

Stepping out of a comfort zone is universal to our personal growth. Once we push past our comfort zone, it becomes easier and easier to do. Those personal challenges become like little badges of honor that we carry with us to our next experience. We start seeing that the possible failures that come along with risk taking, outweigh the positive benefits from the learning experience. Or even from the great successes that follow!

As a professional athlete, my career has been about recognizing when I am becoming comfortable and stagnant, and creating change. In the sport of wrestling we live in discomfort for years or seasons on end. Your future is entirely unknown, as an injury, family emergency, or life change could put your goals on hold. Despite these obstacles, your focus continues to go toward building the possibility of success through calculated risk taking and sacrifices.

My past injuries and surgeries have certainly caused me to really push out of my comfort zones. When as an athlete your livelihood depends on your ability to perform and that is no longer an option, you must decide to either rise to the occasion or allow it to swallow you. When I had foot surgery and was confined to a knee scooter (I named him Scoot Scoot! He and I really bonded, even after I threw him on the ground due to frustration), I knew that I could stay home and watch a TON of Netflix, or I could figure out how to hop out of the house each day and push the rehab limits of my injury.

This was one year out from Olympic Trials. ONE YEAR. I got creative with my lifts, I learned that I could do a lot of workouts in a chair, and I got real real uncomfortable with mindfulness. That whisper in my ear said, “just wait to do these once you’re healed. You need rest and you can’t really do anything anyways” or “how will you ever be ready for Olympic Trials?” was consistently present. It was a risk to make myself vulnerable and still be hopeful for an Olympic spot, but it seemed like a bigger risk to let the opportunity pass. Sometimes, it’s really your own mind that’s trying to hold you back. If I hadn’t pushed past what I thought I could handle, the stress, the anxieties of the future, I would not be here feeling like I can share these experiences with all of you.

I have been extremely fortunate to have traveled the path of a professional athlete. As we age, we become more aware of the challenges that are involved in taking risks, so we take them less often. Through years of  training I have learned to practice the skill of risk taking, which has continued to keep me to be open to new experiences (like this blog, which has been a deep endeavor into a new level of discomfort for me!)

You can practice getting out of your comfort zone

We have all heard "fail, and fail often" before, and there's a reason for that. It means that no matter what situation you are in, you can always creatively challenge your comfort zone and seek improvement. Even if you fail, you learn to be open to the experience, and in turn change your habits of fearing the unknown.

For athletes and challenge seekers alike, we become really obsessed with pushing the envelope. However, we can just as easily fall victim to our comfort zones. It could be that winning streak you got use to, until a big loss made you realize you hadn't been pushing yourself in the same way. Maybe a once risky goal that is now easily obtained becomes too easy to accomplish and simple mistakes begin to appear. It becomes important to see the difference between comfortable consistency, and consistently challenging yourself.

Recognize what makes you uncomfortable. What do you shy away from? It could be socially, physically, or mentally. We all have places where we'd rather hide than confront what feels hard and complicated. When we start fearing vulnerability, we start seeing risk taking as negative. When did you last perceive someone else's risk taking as a terrible decision? Could that be your own fears judging their openness to experience?

Set a realistic goal for yourself that helps you confront a comfort zone you want to explore or push past. Seeking others' support and help is a great way to start learning about the steps you can take towards a different path for yourself. Often enough, there is someone out there who has the answer to your questions about seeking a new endeavor or self-improvement.

Be open to opportunities that may seem silly or off topic for what you hope to achieve. I strongly believe that once you start putting your energies towards self improvement, opportunities show up in the oddest of places. Remember that movie, "Yes Man"? Despite the hilarious and unrealistic things he said yes to (i.e. a mail order bride), he said yes to experiences that helped him break free from his comfort zone and find friendships and opportunities in unexpected places. I can’t even count on two hands the number of times I went to an event expecting very little and coming out with amazing connections that have helped in my journey’s success! So... what risks are you taking today?

When Should You be Journaling?

Having a journal for sport is so much more than writing down a specific technique, or pouring out your emotions on the page. Journaling becomes a log of where you are at a certain point in your training. You begin to see patterns in your behaviors or actions, and how you handle situations that arise in sport. Journaling can become your place to tell it like it is, and learn to move forward despite how you felt.

It takes another level of discipline to sit yourself down and recognize the good, the bad, and the ugly of a practice session or of a workout. I firmly believe that if you are challenged and uncomfortable by journaling, then it is even more imperative that you begin. Challenge is the essence of growing, and in sport and life, we need every opportunity to practice being uncomfortable.

Being able to find honesty, and then peace with whatever happened in your day can help transform the way you look at improving yourself daily. And that is exactly what we look for... the times when you aren't sure what's ahead, we must have faith that the work will pay off. Can I continue to grind despite the feeling of traveling downhill on the rollercoaster? When I journaled about a tough time before, can I hold on and keep pushing since I know there will be a light at the end of the tunnel?

Now that we know the importance and value in keeping a journal, when are the best times to pull out that journal and jot some notes down?

First, get yourself to practice early. Use your journal as a way to create goals for the day or for the practice session, as well as a way to describe the thoughts and feelings you notice. Sometimes when you are heading into a practice you know will be tough, you have nerves, thoughts, worries or fears. Give yourself the opportunity to be honest with those feelings. By writing down those thoughts, you have honored those feelings and can now redirect your focus onto whats important: practice. A thought does not predict what will happen in practice (there are always opportunities to play with sports psychology and mindfulness!). 

In terms of your practice goals, describe the areas you hope to put your attention towards (redirection, noticing being in the moment). Write down the specific technique that you need to include in that day's practice. Include the focus drills you will need complete on your own at the end of practice. 

Its very typical that once you get into the practice, your specific areas of focus could change. If thats what comes up, take it! Journaling is not about being perfect. The concept is not to create a map for a perfect practice, and then punish yourself if it doesn't follow that path. Really, who cares? By journaling, you created an intent to focus. You created a theme to your practice, not a regimen. 

Once practice is done and your cool down is in its last stages, pull out that journal again. I like to journal when I've finished my cool down routine and I am ready to stretch and rehydrate. I am relaxed, I have most likely finished any of the extra drills I need to complete, spoken to coaches, or drilled extra technique. I get to bring my focus to reflecting on the last few hours. 

Curate a consistency with the topics you journal about. This will make it easier to build your training and mentality journal around a dependable theme. Take the guess work out of the process:

  • Talk about the specific techniques you worked on. This should be detailed enough for yourself that you will be able to understand and perform it when you need to refer back to your journal.
  • Discuss areas during the practice that presented challenge and may need added attention.
  • Mentality: what thoughts came up during practice? When were you kind to yourself for having those thoughts? When and with what kind of technique did you help yourself put your focus back on being in the moment?
  • List the extra drills you worked on, and need to remain in your repertoire.  

Whatever you choose to journal about, your continued effort helps you see patterns develop over time. There are more topics than listed above, and there will be certain times in your training where some topics are much more important than others. It's just how your career and training develops over time and you change as a person! 

Best of luck trying out the awesome-ness of journaling! 

 

Katherine 

I'm Falling Behind in Wrestling

I'm Falling Behind in Wrestling

How do I deal with not being on the mat?

I seriously, seriously appreciate the honesty that girls approach me with when they want advice on injuries. I can just hear in their voices that gut fear of falling behind. From experiencing plenty of the same fear myself, I wanted to give some insight into what it has taken me to come back from an injury and be able to try out for an Olympic Team a few months later.

Read More

Is Sports Psychology Important for a Tournament Day?

Majority of our time and effort is spent learning technique and strategies to prep for competition day. Your strategy should also include prepping your mind. And this is much different from the mental strength we build while we push ourselves in the practice room. These mental strategies are all about giving our minds the best tools to allow our bodies to perform. 

In terms of comparisons, forgetting about mental training or sports psychology is like buying an expensive car and forgetting to put the correct oil in it. We spend countless hours training our bodies to perform at an optimum level, and then expect our minds relinquish the power to our bodies without training it. 

The first step is creating a plan for yourself. Creating a plan to follow is helpful to give yourself a chance to repeat and improve on what you like to do before and on competition day. Get yourself a piece of paper (or a sport journal!) and write down the things you did at a recent competition:

1. What was your routine the day before competition/weigh-ins?

2. What did you eat/drink the day before, and after weight-ins?

3. How did you prep after weigh-ins?

4. What is your warm up like?

  • Would you make any changes?
  • Who was your partner?
  • Duration and intensity of warm up
  • Time after warm up before competition began

5. Your pre match warm-up and post match cool-down?

 

Now, as important as creating your plan is, I believe this next section is 10x MORE important. THIS IS WHAT MAKES AND BREAKS ATHLETES TRYING TO REACH THE NEXT LEVEL. What happens when this plan does not go through like expected? What happens when the partner you usually warm up with is sick, or your parents say the wrong thing to you, or you ate the wrong thing and now you are feeling unlike your usual self? You have to be flexible in your mind to let it pass and move on to the next thing. You may be able to control what you do in order to prep yourself in the best way possible, but that does mean that you live in a bubble. The unexpected, the uncontrollable, the unfortunate can still penetrate "the plan." Now, on the next page of your journal write down the answers to these questions: 

1. What thoughts did you notice throughout your competition?

  • Morning of
  • During warm-up
  • Each match

2. Name 4 values pertaining to you as a person, not yourself as a competitor 

  • Katherine's Example:
    • One of my core values is Generosity

3. How do you represent your 4 values at a competition? 

  • Katherine's Example:
    • Being at my best, being prepared, and having the most fight in the match will be the most generous gesture to my opponents 

3. What cues from your values can you use to move forward when your mind serves up certain thoughts?

 

This is what will help your mind to let your body do the job it knows how to do. It doesn't matter if you have the perfect warm-up, the perfect weight cut, the perfect understanding of technique. You don't need to be perfect because nothing needs to be "fixed." Being perfect does not guarantee that you will come out the victor. But your values, they will always be the core of you. And tying your values to that love and desire to compete is what will give yourself the best chance. To know that your mind will serve up thoughts, MANY thoughts. Thoughts that you don't want to think. But they will, and tying yourself to the things you value allows you to bring your focus on competing moment by moment, instead of competing with a fear of loosing. 

Sports psychology is a journey, not a race. Be patient with it! I have a lot more where this came from, so leave a comment below if you can relate to this and you want more advice on the topic! 

Katherine 

 

 

Goal Setting and Journaling for Athletes

Keeping a journal can be extremely beneficial for your athletic career. However, having a strategy and a plan is important for getting started. Watch the video for tips about how I create my long term goals, my short term goals, and my process goals. I give you some insight into how I do my daily journal, and why its important for athletes and wrestlers to keep one! Enjoy!