Performance Coaching Tips

Charlotte DuJardin on the morning of her gold medal winning performance 2012

  Obstacles (1)

Many people use obstacles as an excuse for not achieving their goals or even for not setting those goals. But for successful people, obstacles are part of every day life that need to be addressed and overcome. Obstacles can take many forms, many of them are emotional, shame, guilt or even pride, can all prevent you making changes that need to be made to achieve progress. Other obstacles can be more physical such as body issues that prevent you operating at the level that you need. A third area is poor goal setting and self sabotage often operates at this level.

The first obstacle we will consider is shame- this usually arises when a person believes that they have issues that make them appear weak, flawed or defective. If a person feels like this then they are less likely to seek help and they may even be ashamed to admit to themselves that they have a problem. This is often the case when a rider becomes afraid to ride their horse on their own or in the way it needs to be ridden. Without outside help from a hypno-therapist or a Cognitive Behaviour Therapist or from a trainer that has empathy and can re-build their confidence in a stable manner. The key is to take responsibility for overcoming the issue but resist blaming yourself (or anyone else) for your shortcomings.

Secondly the emotion of guilt can be very powerful and can sabotage your chances of taking positive action to improve and achieve your goals. It is not uncommon for women, particularly, to feel that they would be letting the family down by pursuing their goals or that they have no right to expect support for their dreams. In this instance the important thing is communication, ensuring that you tell your family what you want to achieve and what help you will need from them. There may then be negotiations regarding how much of your time you will use to pursue your plans so that you and the family are all agreed of what has priority and what can be deferred if needed.

The third emotional area is pride although this is often a compensatory strategy for shame as it may protect you from recognising that your usual method of dealing with issues is letting you down. The person who is being damaged by pride is likely to say things like “If I could help myself , I’d have done it ages ago” or I’m an intelligent person and should be able to work things out for myself”. In the first instance the person may need more help in understanding the principles involved and may just need to put more research in or find a different trainer who explains something a little differently. The second case may be someone who is very experienced who feels that they should be able to sort out a basic issue without resorting to help. Once you have tried to work through the same problem for more than a couple of weeks then accept that you need some outside input and that a trainer will not be making judgements about your competency because you have asked for help.

(Claire Knowles on Pendragon of Independence)

 Step Away from the Crystal ball

Amazingly enough, most people cannot see into the future but a very high number of people base their fears and concerns on their own version of Crystal ball gazing. Think of your friend, the one who is feeling a bit low, they get invited to a party but when they think about it they think of all the negatives – how poor the food will be, how loud the music will be, how everyone else will be with a partner so they decline the invitation and then spend the next day bemoaning how poor their social life is. Parents very often try to second guess what may happen as a way of trying to discourage their off-spring from doing something that makes the parent lose an element control of the child- this is a natural reaction for a caring parent but is a negative element in the self-development of the child. Be careful that you dn’t fulfil the parent and child role in your life

In the main it is always better to let the future unfold without trying to guess how it may turn out. Test out your predictions and go with an open mind, be prepared to take risks- remember the saying “a ship is safest in a harbour but that’s not where it was built to stay”. Understand that your past experiences are not the sole determinants of your future, just because you didn’t enjoy an event last time doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it this time.

Crystal ball gazing is what often stops us from moving forwards and from taking action for change. It can also become a self-fulfilling prophecy- telling yourself you will be hopeless in a dressage test or show jumping arena can change your thought patterns so that you make the prophecy come true.

We will be looking at how to take a more scientific and calculated approach to your future in a forthcoming article, but for now- step away from the crystal ball and go with an open mind to something new

Former RoR winner Cheryl Jackson

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep 

Quality sleep is essential for good health and concentration and lack of sleep can lead to many stress related problems including a weakened immune system, poor memory and weight gain .In addition tiredness can lead to drivers falling asleep at the wheel which is reported in almost 20% of motorway crashes . Insomnia is a common problem in Britain with 10% of people suffering from the condition and nearly 70% of people reporting that they have at least one bad night’s sleep a week. Whilst there may be obvious short term problems such as back pain, temporary stressful situations (and the longer term noisy/snoring partner! ) there is much that you can do to ensure your sleep is undisturbed to make you alert and ready for the new day.

Modern lifestyles tend to involve too much mental stimulation and not enough physical exercise combined with a lack of exposure to daylight. For many riders this may be less of an issue than for those poor folk who spend their weekdays travelling to work, sitting in an office and travelling home again ready to spend their evenings in front of the television or computer. However don’t be complacent and try to ensure your routine includes 15 minutes of exposure to daylight in the morning as this will tell your body to expect to sleep 14-16 hours later. In addition try to get 30 minutes of exercise in the evening which better than doing all your exercise early in the day.

If you do have problems with your sleep patterns, check that your mattress is even, supportive without being hard - as a general rule they need replacing every 6-8 years but a matress topper can also help. Check that your bedroom is free from electrical appliances, such as mobile phones, laptops and Televisions and if you must have them in the same room ensure they are not switched on or charging during the night and as far away from you as possible. Even a small amount of light can disrupt production of sleep inducing melatonin so invest in blackout blinds or use a sleep mask. Keep the bedroom at 16-18 degrees and if you are a woman plagued by those damned hormones then keep a jar of iced water and a spritzing spray next to the bed and wear only natural fibres.

There are many foods which can help in your evening meal such as bananas, turkey, oatmeal, warm milk and honey and if you avoid eating a heavy meal after 9pm ( and even earlier as you get older sadly!) and avoid caffeine after 5pm if you have any sleep related issues. Try to have a routine and regular bedtime relative to the time you got up that morning and all of these tips should help you ensure you get the best rest to face the big test tomorrow

Christine Kershaw with Uri

Goal of the Month -

Balance Wheels

With the highly unusual events of the last few months it is an ideal time to take stock and decide what needs to change in your life and then, using some of the tools we have been considering over the last few months (such as SMART goal setting), to make the changes that you want. So sit down with a pen and paper and look at your own balance wheel (see links page for an example and how to complete it). This is something you should do every 3-6 months in conjunction with reviewing your goals.

For each section of the wheel, give yourself a mark out of 10 for how you feel about the area of your life and draw a line on the wheel to show the visual representation. For example, if your job is really fulfilling and everything you want then you may award it a 10 (try using the dressage marks to help you with 10 as excellent down to 1 as very bad) whereas if the relationship and time that you have with friends and family is not really satisfying then you might award that a 4.

Take a look at the wheel- how balanced does it look? Then when you are setting your goals and making decisions about how to spend your time you can add the question “Does this help to balance my life or make it even less balanced?” to help you decide if it is a valuable course of action for you. Too often we get swept along rather than make defining decisions about our time and resources- whilst it can be very boring to be too prescriptive about our lives a lack of planning can lead to regret that we have not arrived at a place that is fulfilling to us.

Once you have completed your balance wheel then it’s time for goals setting and deciding how you are going to get there where the task v motivation article above may be of help to you