5 tips to overcome fears that sabotage fitness success

Lean and Fit Extra #1 of 2. Becoming "burpee-dauntless"

If you don’t know about Burpees or Spartan Races check this out

I’ve trained for months. I can climb a rope, do many pull ups, carry weights, balance and run 10 miles in heat, but I still struggle to do excessive amounts of burpees.  Last time we did a shorter Spartan event we were forced to do over 250 burpees. 250! Which is nuts! And of course, by 200 I said this is X*RVWR! stupid and stopped (failed).  This time we (my beloved hubby and training partner and I) signed up for the competitive division in the Spartan Super race tomorrow to secure the cooler, less crowded time of 8 AM. By locking in the cooler time (less humidity, less waiting, more fun) we “agreed” to do the 30 burpee penalty for every “missed obstacle.”  I figure at least 4×30=120 burpees tomorrow, in addition to the 22-24 obstacles and running 8-10 miles on the very humid trails at beautiful Kualoa Ranch, Oa’hu Hawai’i.

Background for aging athletes. Prior to my back surgery (2016) burpees were not fun.  Now the combined effect of the muscle/nerve cut/repair around my L1 vertebrae and my bilateral carpal tunnel scar makes them both hard and painful.  Unquestionably, the good news is, this “fear of pain and exertion” tells me I haven’t lost my sanity (yet).  But, at age 53, after probably a hundred competitive events including risky Xterra triathlons (mountain biking),  it does clarify that exercising hard at older ages is 1) more painful, 2) risky, 3) much more a mental challenge than when I was younger, less experienced and could “carefree” challenge myself without mental baggage of past struggles. To me this is why all races should have age division breakdowns…

What do I recommend to others for overcoming their sabotaging fears?

What will I do to be dauntless and overcome my fear of burpees?

#1. Face your fears honestly by sharing them with a trusted friend. Explore why it’s real and what you can do about it.

In my case training helped, but my fear is based on expected pain, stupidity and past failure. It’s real.  I’ve admitted my fear to my beloved and am writing this post as a strategy to address it.

#2.  Talk/explore with others who have this fear so you don’t feel alone/embarrassed.

Check out this excellent “Burpee-phobic” post. The majority of my fellow competitors will also struggle with burpees: I now acknowledge I’m not the only one who will suffer and we can cheer each other on in this battle.

#3. Develop a plan, or multiple plans to overcome your real fears.

One of the things that plagues me is that those bad&&&& who run Spartan races demonstrate fast, perfect burpees (on video in a controlled, non-competitive environment) as if they are the hallmark of a true hard-core athlete. So, in my head I think I too must do them perfect, and must do them fast to be competitive.  I’ve always been a competitive athlete. Still am. But if, IF I let go my perception that “I have to complete this event fast”  – my own special headtrip —  I will overcome my fears. So here’s my plan:

  • Step 1. Let go of false expectations. I hereby “Let go” of being competitive in the Super Spartan and instead plan to do the race for fun with the goals of both of us finishing and having fun despite burpees.
  • Step 2.  Be Proactive.  I will do my best to “pass” every obstacle well the first time so i’ll have less burpees to do!  This means I must know the obstacles well, get my heart rate down, take my time on the obstacles that you’re only allowed one attempt at, and “give it my best” the first time. Best = completion. Not fast. Just completion.
  • Step 3.  Break it up into manageable pieces. I will follow my hubby’s plan of doing 10 burpees and then stopping, so my heart rate and pain are manageable; then doing the next 10; and then the next 10. 
  • Step 4. Manage the struggles: In my case, my struggle will be pain, so I’ll take 2 Advil  + 2 4mg BioAstin the night before and prior to the race, wear gloves, carry two Advil during the race and allow myself time to drink, eat and stretch as needed.

#4. Get Psyched: Don’t Worry. Believe that you’ve now got the plan, will do everything you can to be successful and then “let go” of your worry.

This means I will:  1) review how to do obstacles; 2) prep, step-by-step for the race so I have “all my ducks it a row”; 3) eat more carbs and drink more electrolytes; 4) do something tonight that will get me relaxed and really let go without alcohol! (i.e. Watch AC/DC “Live at Castle Donnington video;  5) pray; 6) get a good night sleep; 7) stay positive all today, before and during the race; and, 8) no worry or live in fear any more.

I know I have fallen, been in intense pain and still completed challenging events like this in the last 10 years: I can and will do it again!

#5. Outline a back up plan so you have a known escape route to really de-stress.

This isn’t easy, but really an excellent investment. Don’t let yourself off too easy. Remember you can and probably will do more than you think.

My Plan B: 1) Do 6 sets of 5 (take more time); 2) If I am at the point I have too much pain and feel I could be doing permanent damage (which is another fear) I will allow myself to complete the race w/o required burpees, thereby accepting that a DNF (Did not finish) is a smart decision.

Going through this process helped me realize that most of my fear do stem from repeating previous difficult experiences, failing to live up to my expectations (or others of speed) that is related to my fundamental character flaw: Impatience, and to real fears related to past experiences of  acute pain/falling.

I acknowledge my fears are justified. I will manage anything that comes my way if I WANT it bad enough. I will stay calm enough to develop a rational plan, be dauntless and Believe I can!

 Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow, where I report back how this plan worked.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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One thought on “5 tips to overcome fears that sabotage fitness success

  1. I’m also feeling a bit of intimidation from the “burpee” penalties. You are taking the right approach in focusing not directly on the burpees but on what you can control. Take time on each obstacle to better insure completion and thereby not incurring the burpee penalty. Do your best, not what someone else expects you to do; that way you don’t rush into mistakes. And, going in with a strategy for doing burpees (if necessary) that will minimize pain and discomfort. Reading this post helped me to evaluate my own strategy! Have a great and fun race! I’ll look forward to your followup post to see how things worked out.