Coping and Choking in Triathlon and Life

Davey Black Sports Performance Behavioural & Mental Health Counsellor, Alejandro Nestor Rivera, speaks about the importance of your relationship with these two “c” words.

Feeling the pressure that a situation creates is one of the most common feelings that you will face in real life. Some of us will feel it when running our first 10K. Others will experience this same feeling when arriving for our first day of work or giving a speech in front of a crowd. However it manifests itself, it is inevitable that we will go through it at some point in our lives.

What most of us don’t understand is that the same areas of the brain that are activated during a challenging Ironman training program session or an important running event are equally activated in our day to day life. Based on this, there are two big words that you will relate to in both your daily life challenges and your athletic pursuits. These two words are ‘Coping’ and ‘Choking’. The cognitive relationship created around these two words can be the difference between you succeeding in your day to day life and sport, and you crumbling under pressure.

One of the most important skills in our professional and athletic life is coping. This is defined as our natural response to discomfort and stress that favourably changes the person’s relationship with the perception of effort. With running and triathlon, you will start understanding and getting used to coping through the effort by consistent training, educating yourself, or learning from elite athletes or people who have already gone through what you are going through. When we relate this to our professional life, it is easy to find the similarity and understanding that through education, practice and a well developed plan, you will be able to perform much better and respond to stress and pressure more efficiently.

On the flip-side, however, is when a person allows that pressure to crush them. This capitulation is what ‘choking’ looks like. Choking is defined as a poor performance in response to a perceived challenge or stress. There are two main aspects that create this effect. The first one is how much importance you give to one specific situation, the second is the unconscious self-sabotage as a way of protecting your own self. The best way to avoid choking is to develop, practice and maintain your coping skills. You need to make sure that you have trust in your progress and the skills you acquire from such a process.

It is important to mention that the difference between coping and choking relies entirely on one person’s mindset towards the challenge. As it has been shown here, by developing the necessary skills and mindset to perform in a triathlon or a running event, you will be creating the same type of responses for your professional life, your social life and your self-care skills.

The better you race, the better you live.

If you would like to explore your ability to build resilience and reduce your self-sabotage under pressure, you can book an online counselling appointment with Davey Black Sports Performance Behavioural & Mental Health Counsellor, Alejandro Nestor Rivera.

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