Looking at twitter posts in the lead up to the first Palace (Tues 27th) it was clear several people were showing signs of compeititive anxiety.
Competitive anxiety is necessarily a bad thing... its you getting psyched up / ready for something, and last night it was racing.
One person tweeted - 'got alittle bit of vomit in my mouth' >> this is somatic or physcial form of the anxiety. Where as Ben in my office was in high spirits and beaming ear to ear >> cognitive or mental form of anxiety and the smiling is somatic.
In the end Ben finished 4th in his race so he controlled his anxiety to his competitive advantage.
Where as I was just eating some Rocky Road cake, moping about the place, couldn't really be bothered. When I got the race, I was alittle bit more excited. But riding the course made me feel tired and weak.
I clearly wasn't controlling my anxiety to use it to my advantage.
I remember when I rode my first National cross champs (2008). After the first lap it sort of hit me I was racing with some big hitters and I'm in 7th. All sorts of things when through my head about being last, falling off, looking silly. Then I sort of got this nervous feeling and I couldn't really control my legs and it felt like I couldn't turn the pedals. So I slowed right down to try and deal with it.
This is a result of anxiety not being managed and the stress of the event negatively affecting performance.
All this bad riding last night at Palace and my can't be bothered attitude got be thinking about motivation and anxiety. Particularily the ol' Catastrophe Theory. How I can use my brain to get better.
Its the one hypothesis of how competitive anxiety influences performance. I used in some studies while I was at Uni. There are other theories (Inverted U, Drive, Multi-dimensional) but I reckon Catastrophe is the best.
Inverted U says that you'll become better as anxiety increases and then it will drop off slowly. Well I'm sure we've all had it when suddenly the game changes and we're just rubbish in the snap of a second. Inverted U doesn't consider that.
Drive theory is the worse theory ever. Mr Hull whocame up with it says as anxiety increases you just keep getting better and better. Well, you don't! Too much anxiety means you just don't go well and mess up (but Drive theory was invented in the forties so they weren't 100% on top of science back then).
Basically Catastrophe Theory says you can improve performance by increasing anxiety but it has to be controlled, if you over work yourself you could physical tire yourself (loads of confidence go for a break or get muscle tension and cramp) or mentally get overwhelmed (start to panic). Either way the theory says a catastrophe will happen and performance will plumet.
Yesterday none of the graphs applied because I didn't manage to even get near half way up the line.
All we have to do is get the anxiety to the right level and control it. Simple?
But I haven't quite worked that out just yet.....
You can measure how anxious you get in competition here (http://www.brianmac.co.uk/scat.htm)
I've simplified theories and not considered personality type, motivation, behaviour and Optimum Arousal Theory (having an optimum zone of functioning)