Preparation is under-rated. Prepare to win
Preparation makes all the difference to success. Sadly, many people’s efforts to prepare for competition miss the key elements or gloss over them too quickly. Focusing our efforts on what makes the biggest difference to winning is what counts. That’s the winning controllables for that competition. Properly planning to win is worth all the effort. And that planning starts with our most vital organ.
Fine-tune your engine
The heart is the engine room of the body, beating over 100,000 times a day in order to pump oxygenated blood around your body. After about a minute that blood returns for another burst of oxygenation in the lungs, before being pumped round the body once again. This cycle happens every second of your life. And it’s absolutely vital that it does, because every other organ depends on the heart.
The stronger your heart is, the more beats per minute it can generate and the more oxygen can be delivered to your tissues. The more efficient we can train our heart to be, through exercise, the more it will help to improve our physiological performance. We should try to gradually push up its limits and increase its function. Whether that’s through physical endurance or stress management, it’s all helpful in preparing ourselves for the challenges ahead.
A fit and healthy heart, in a fit and healthy body, has to work less hard to achieve the same functionality. That’s why long distance runners tend to have slower resting heartbeats. The very best are ready for competition, they are win ready. We can all train our heart, so that it can help our brain and body perform even better.
Fuel your brain and body
Our brain and body have a symbiotic relationship. The Romans had it right with their maxim “Mens sana in corpore sano” (a sound mind in a sound body). For one to be well, both need to be well. The brain has to work in tandem with the body, to control our functions and emotions, to help us focus on the steps we need for success. Without the heart pumping round the oxygen supply we need, our brain and other muscles get less fuel than they need. Cars don’t work without enough fuel and nor do human beings.
So we need to train our heart to work in extreme situations and extreme places, especially when we’re under pressure. If your heart can’t pump the level of oxygenated blood you need, you’ll quickly fatigue. Sadly, we can’t get instantly super-fit overnight. There isn’t a magic pill that gives us a healthy, safe and permanent state of fitness. We have to gradually build up our fitness level, at a pace that our body can cope with. We need a training plan that’s suitable for the challenges we want to take on. Otherwise we’ll run out of oxygen when we need it most.
When you’re fatigued, you’re operating at your limits. You can’t concentrate as clearly. You’ll start suffering head and muscle aches that will stifle your thinking and your movement. When your oxygen level drops off, your performance will drop off too. This is what happens to us, when we get hijacked by fear.
The Impact of Fear
Fear is a human response to taking risks. The larger the perceived risk, the more nervous we get in anticipation of it. Fear restricts our decision-making capability. We cannot perform at our peak, when our mind is swimming with the uncertainty caused by fear and worry. We have to be able to focus, single-mindedly, on the task in hand.
When we’re working under high pressure or suffering from stress, we lose our focus, context and perspective. When that stress is extreme, the amygdalae in our brain can hijack our thinking, putting us into fight or flight mode. When the heart is driven by fear, it pumps too fast to work efficiently. Not enough oxygenated blood reaches the tissues around the body. Losing control of our thinking or breathing increases our fear levels even higher.
Fear can create a vicious circle that deprives us of the oxygen we desperately need. That’s no good for complex decision-making or physical performance. We need a calm, blue head to perform at our best. When we keep ourselves calm, our heart can feed us the fuel we need.
Managing our Fear
There is only one way of overcoming a fear and that’s by facing it. When our amygdalae have hijacked us, we need to manage our way back into control. We usually can’t do that without prior preparation. We regain control of our fears by gradually exposing ourselves to that scary or risky situation, by working through it in manageable stages.
Increasing our familiarity with what we fear will reduce our level of apprehension about it. The better you cope with handling a risky situation, the less afraid you are of doing it again. Reducing our fear of a situation, allows our heart to function more efficiently once again. That allows more oxygen to reach our brain, which can retake control of our thinking and manage our fear down further.
Sadly, this process of gradual exposure cannot be done whilst the extreme pressure is still on. Building familiarity requires a controlled step by step approach. It requires scenario planning in advance.
Managing the Risks
Doing a risky thing, without preparing yourself for it, might help you to conquer your fear of it, if you’re very lucky and it goes well. But that gung-ho attitude won’t reduce the level risk involved. Risk management is the process to work on before you start taking extreme risks. That can prepare you for what’s to come. By managing the winning controllables involved, you may be able to de-risk the situation completely.
Maximising Your Performance
To perform at our best, we need to prepare and get ourselves win ready. By preparing properly, we can maximise our fitness for the challenge and minimise the risks of it. That way we can face our fears more safely. This normally means taking on an extreme risk in controlled stages, gradually working our way to the extreme edges of the task.
Through scenario planning, fitness training and risk management we reduce our fear, reduce our risk and and give ourselves a powerful red heart and a calm, blue head to handle the pressure. This process of mental and physical preparation will reduce if not remove the risk of an amigdola hijack and maximise our performance.