Competing, in any sport, is both exciting and scary. Feeling nervous is a big part of being human and is just a sign that we care about what’s to come. Whether it’s a CrossFit Competition, a race, an interview, a presentations, a proposal, the first day at a new job, we all get nervous for different reasons

Nerves hit us in all sorts of ways: your heart pounds in your chest, you get butterflies in your stomach, you feel or even get physically sick, you start to sweat. But nerves shouldn’t be a bad thing, you can use them to your advantage.

We prepare and prepare for comps with our training, our kit, our clothing our nutrition and our sleep. Everything is thought out, but have you thought about how you handle the rush of adrenaline that comes with the stress/nerves? 

Nerves can kick in at any point before a comp. Whether it’s as you’re pulling into the car park, walking into the venue and seeing all the kit, watching the heats before yours, there is a biological chain reaction happening inside your body. 

First, information is sent straight to your amygdala – this is the bit of your brain that controls your emotions. If you start to feel nervous or panicked, it’s because your amygdala is sending out a ‘warning’ signal to your Hypothalamus – the are of your brain that controls hormone levels.

Next, the Hypothalamus starts releasing hormones – it tells your adrenal glands to release Cortisol and Adrenaline.

These 2 chemicals then super charge your heart rate and your blood pressure, whilst simultaneously increasing blood sugar levels to help your blood carry more fuels to your muscles that are about to be used. 

On 3, 2, 1, GO, your anxiety and nerves are probably at peak levels. You either use them to propel you forward in competition, or you choke. Choking is a decrease in your performance, due to too much perceived stress.

Here’s a few tips to follow, to help you manage those stress levels and achieve your best:

1- Understand and be comfortable with your pre competition nerves. Don’t fight the nervous energy you feel. Don’t misinterpret it by thinking that it is fear. That adrenaline rush you feel is normal and it is part of your body’s natural preparation for the competition.

2- Prepare your body and your mind. Don’t be late to your event, this will only cause you more unnecessary stress. Do some warming up and some stretching. And be sure to have all your kit ready to go. The last thing you want is to be rummaging through your bag as you’re about to take the floor!

3- Practice and Visualise. Take some time to rehearse the movements required, make sure you’re comfortable with what is being asked of you so you know you’re capable beforehand.

4- Be in the moment. Don’t waste time thinking about the outcome and the ifs and buts. Just focus on what you are doing now and take it one thing at a time. If you find yourself having negative thoughts about the outcome at the end, focus back to the now and on your breathing. If you’re more relaxed in the now, you’ll do better in the end.

5- Smile and Enjoy! It’s easy to get caught up in the stresses of competing, but it should be fun. We all agree that a big part of CrossFit to us is to feel good and have fun with like-minded people, so don’t let competing ruin that for you. Especially if it’s a first time comp! Plus smiling literally makes you feel good. The feel-good neurotransmitters — dopamine, endorphins and serotonin — are all released when a smile flashes across your face. So keep smiling!