Victim Mentality & Pain

Hey Gymnasts:
I want to share with you a situation that might be holding you back from finding success as you work through pain. It’s called victim mentality. This is an idea that someone is treating you in an unacceptable manner. But, what if the victimization we feel is because of the pain we think our pain is putting us through. We blame our pain for our lack of performance, we use our pain as an excuse to not show up for ourselves. We treat our pain as a threat to our success.

Now pain is not to be taken lightly as gymnast. When you are in pain, you need to get medical attention. However, if a doctor gives you permission to keep working out, then you get to decide what you want the pain to mean when you workout despite the physical pain. The pain is often intensified by the thoughts you are having about your pain. So that means that there is the physical sensation of pain, then there is the suffering we add to that physical pain be the thoughts we choose to have.

Whenever I was in pain as a competitive athlete, the first question I asked the doctor was, “Will it make it worse if I work out with this pain?” If the answer was no, then the rest of the work was usually about how I wanted to think about the pain and working out with that pain.
Let me give you an example, I was talking to a client recently who asked for help with her confidence regarding her handspring front vault. She said, “When I am standing at the end of the vault runway, I know my shins are going to hurt….if I can just focus on each part of the vault and not on my knees then the I could do the vault better.” This client was afraid of landing low on her vaults because it hurt to land low. She asked how to put the pain out of her mind.

This is what I would suggest if any of you have similar issues:
Ask yourself what are you feeling when you think the pain might cause you to not be performing the way you want to? Do you feel hesitant, timid, scared, nervous to do that skill?
Why? Why do you feel this way?
How do you show up? When you feel this way, what do you do on your vault?
How does your vault look when you do those things?

So, for example, you are doing a handspring front on vault. You feel timid because you believe your shin splints will hurt when you are running and landing the vault.
You feel upset about the shin pain and try to wish it away. There is fear that if you go hard or run at top speed, then the pain will be unbearable. Your brain wants you to believe that if you hold back, then the vault will be more ‘bearable.’ If you are timid, then you will be safe. This is what your brain wants you to do whenever you are uncomfortable in any way. Hold back, play safe, don’t push yourself– if you do, you might get hurt.

But, here’s the question, if you don’t go hard, then the landing might also be ‘unbearable.’ Which is worse, the pain in the run or the idea of a low landing on the end side of the skill? If you run fast, you may feel the sensation of pain as you run, but that might be there whether you run slow or fast. What is interesting is to think of the pain on the front end or the back end. There will be discomfort at one of those points. What kind of discomfort do you prefer?
What if is was possible to believe that the pain is just part of the vault for awhile. If the pain doesn’t not increase, but is approved by a doctor for you to push through, then what if the pain was just like a scratchy leotard, just part of the experience.

If you just noticed the pain as being a part of your athletic experience for a bit, then maybe you could choose to think of the part of the vault that would actually give you a great landing. If you chose to focus on the increased speed in the last few steps of the run, the block the tightness, or any other part of the skill, you might have a ‘bearable’ landing that scores well. However, if you step up to the vault runway believing the run is going to hurt, then your entire experience of the vault will be a painful one. Your brain will work to prove that thought true.

Don’t be a victim to your pain. Don’t let pain be the thing that you blame whenever you don’t show up for yourself. Pain is pain. Stop if you are not able to withstand the pain. But, if you choose to push forward with pain, then choose to focus on the skill and not the pain. Think of the pain, like I said, as just a part of your experience. You notice when your hair is tight, your leotard is snug, and your shins are sore… and that’s the end of that story. The rest of your story is, “I am a gymnast who is capable of speeding up her run as she heads towards the vault table, squeezing and driving her heels in the approach, and blocking off quickly for an amazing stick landing.” This will create an experience worth bearing.

Enjoy the pain and it really won’t be that big of a deal. Just another day in the life of gymnastics. How awesome is that!
If you want help coming up with your pain plan, go to to schedule a free 20 minutes session. We will create a specific plan just for you.

Have a Flippin’ Awesome Day,
Amy Twiggs
Sports Performance & Weight Coach

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