Do you ever have thoughts and feelings you don’t want?
Yeah, me too.
From the pesky Imposter, to feeling fat, getting stuck in comparing my speeds/times/distances/achievements/revenue/podcast download numbers to others and doubting my mental strength and toughness, there are often times - sometimes daily - I struggle to keep my (emotion-charged, deeply felt and sometimes irrational) fears and doubts from overwhelming the rational side of my brain that knows none of this is truly important in the scheme of things.
I hear this from a lot of women too who know, with rational, logical certainty that it’s "only" a triathlon, it’s "only" a trail run, it’s not life-and-death and the world isn’t going to end.
Yet their fear and self-doubt is so crippling they sabotage themselves, talk themselves out of a good performance or have such crippling nervous on race morning they can’t eat breakfast (or worst, can’t keep it down).
This week’s guests on Sparta Chicks Radio will explain why.
Dr Simon Marshall and Lesley Paterson are a dynamic duo.
Simon is a sports psychologist with a distinguished career Professor at two US universities, has published over 100 scientific articles on the psychology of exercise, been cited in scientific literature over 10,000 times and had real world practical experience as the Performance Psychologist for the BMC Racing team, a pro cycling team that competes in the Tour de France.
Lesley is a professional mountain biker, 3x World Champion in off-road triathlon, an Ironman Triathlon Champion, coach and (according to her bio) foul-mouthed Scots lassie.
They are also married, the force behind Braveheart Coaching and the co-authors of a new book called The Brave Athlete: Calm the F*ck Down and Rise to the Occasion.
This is a fantastic book I devoured and I’ll be going back to read it time and time again.
It combines science-based, athlete tested strategies in a very practical, relatable, easy to read and laugh-out-loud way.
The books sets the foundation by explaining how the human brain is wired, why it works the way it does and then explores 13 of the most common mental conundrums (I’d call them “stories”) athletes face.
Simon explains the science while Lesley’s experience as an athlete and coach is peppered throughout.
Let me say it now - buy the book. You won’t regret it!
In this conversation, we discuss:
* why Lesley initially retired from sport at 20 due to her disillusionment and how she returned to the sport after 5 years, becoming a “crash test dummy” as she and Simon worked together to develop their approach,
* how your brain works (it’s all about the emotional, irrational and survival-driven Chimp battling with the logical, rational and fact-driven Professor). This concept explains why you have the conflicting thoughts and feelings that you do,
* Lesley’s experience dealing with the Imposter Complex including how she couldn’t even say that she was a professional athlete at the start of her career and how she felt like an Imposter even after she won her first World title,
* how our sense of feeling like a fake, fraud and Imposter is connected to our Athletic Identity (which is our perception of who and what we are), and
* how using an alter ego can help to change your Athletic Identity by changing the actions you take (which, in turn, changes the words you use and the thoughts and beliefs you have; it’s an outside-in approach to changing the stories we tell ourselves).
Some of my favourite quotes from this episode:
From Lesley on the Imposter:
“It’s always been there in so much that it comes in waves. You step into an environment where you feel out of your depth, you feel judgement and expectation and all those feelings of being an Imposter rise up in you. So it’s kinda cyclical in so much as every time you go on a new journey like that, you’re bound to feel like it….…when I first became a pro, I couldn’t even say the word. I couldn’t even say “I’m a professional athlete” because I felt like a total fraud, I felt like I didn’t deserve it, I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t own that status. And it took a long time for me to actually say the words…”
“We know that the way you get the most out of yourself, the way you push yourself, the way you reach your potential is really independent of how fast you are, how good you are, how talented you are. It’s really about a mindset that you have and you give yourself permission to lay it on the line.”
“Recognise that the thoughts and feelings you have about yourself are not the real you at all."
“The human experience of doing things that make us feel uncomfortable is pretty much a universal thing amongst humans. If you could only see little thought bubbles appearing above people’s heads of all levels, you’d be amazed….I’ve worked with professional cyclists in the Tour de France and it was amazing to me that they had the same thoughts and feelings as people who are just struggling to do their first 5km or 10km. They are in a different context but the same essence was still there; the same universality. We all feel it.”
I absolutely loved talking to Simon and Lesley and I know you’ll enjoy this conversation too.
Oh, and if the title of this post and the name of the book isn’t enough of a hint, you’ll need headphones for this episode if you have little ones around.
Notes and resources:
To find out more about Simon and Lesley or to say hello, you can find them on their website at Braveheart Coaching or on social media; Lesley is on Instagram and both are on Twitter (Lesley or Simon).