Written by Marisa Inda
As a competitive athlete I don’t think there is anything worse than setting goals and not meeting them. At that moment it can be humbling as well as devastating. Months of hard work, ice baths, dieting and muscle soreness seemingly for nothing. For me, this happened in the form of bombing out at a national meet on squats. Stepping onto that platform after two failed attempts, I can honestly say my confidence was shattered and thus I walked off with 3 more red lights on my third attempt….yes, I had just FAILED, and yes, I wanted to crawl under a rock and sob.
Here’s where I tell you that the majority of successful people have failed the most…but no one wants to hear that after a loss. As a competitive person, I don’t want the participation award. I want to win every time I step on that platform. Unfortunately, for most of us this isn’t going to happen and yes, as cliché as it sounds, failing is part of the growing process. So how can you overcome a competitive loss?
Accept that Failure isn’t a bad thing
I think initially it’s common to be upset and feel sorry for yourself. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t had a good hour of being pissed and replaying the ”what if” scenarios in my head. That lump in my throat when I had to call family and friends and give them the news was horrible. However, I quickly regrouped and started analyzing where I went wrong. That’s the great thing about failure and the mark of a true competitor: you reflect and learn from every single experience, be it good or bad. I don’t think you can really differentiate the two because at the end of the day, even if you win, we all strive to be better the next time around.
Learn to Control self-doubt
I don’t think it’s possible to completely quiet that doubting voice in our heads. To this day I sometimes still have dreams where I bomb on squat. When I approach the bar in training, on heavy squat days especially, I sometimes have those moments where I doubt my own strength. That voice in my head creeps up and starts telling me “you can’t do this today.” You need to quickly put that voice in check and visualize success. Your body already knows what it needs to do, so don’t let your brain get in its way. Sometimes it’s good to not think and just do.
Building my confidence with smarter training helped me overcome a lot of squat hesitation. If you’re failing attempts in the gym, it can mentally take its toll come meet time. Make sure your training is giving you more assurance and not adding road blocks to your mental game. Remember, you control your thoughts so make them positive ones as much as possible, and make sure your programming is building you up for success both physically and mentally.
Don’t get discouraged
Training for a meet after coming off a loss can either motivate you or add additional pressure and stress. Friends and family who don’t understand why you do this might even hope you get discouraged and quit. Yes, it can be frustrating to feel like you’re spinning your wheels, especially in the iron game where PRs can sometimes take months to achieve. I’ve had several meets where my bench has stayed the same, and sometimes in training everything feels miserably heavy. You need to remember why you started competing in the first place. If you really look at the times you were most successful, it’s probably when you were actually having fun with the process, more mentally relaxed and not over-thinking every aspect of training.
Wrapping it up
Let’s face reality, whether you like it or not, you’re probably gonna fail at some point. Be it by bombing out, not hitting your numbers or losing out to the stronger person that day. This is why I compete and respect those that do, because it takes a lot of courage to step onto that platform and face the possibility of losing and bouncing back if you do. I do it because I love going up against the very best and seeing where I stand, how I can improve, and fighting the good fight on the platform. Win or lose I walk away learning more about myself, conquering self doubt and discouragement and how could that ever be a fail?