Fear is the Mind Killer – More Lessons From Weightlifting Camp as I Prep for the World Masters Cup


When I first saw the start list for the 53k/45w class at the Masters World Cup in Dallas I thought I had forgotten how to breathe.  There were seven – SEVEN!- women entered and while most of us were tightly clustered in terms of previous totals, the entrants included the multiple time world champion in the class, Joanne McManus from Great Britain and the current American snatch record holder in the class, Sandra Arechaederra.

Now let’s stop a moment and contemplate how ludicrous my reaction was.  Yes, I’m more used to be one of only a few at any given competition and yes, I’m used to being pretty good.  But why the panic?

Keep in mind that if you were lying on a stretcher in front of me with multiple gunshot wounds to your trunk, I would calmly and efficiently assess whether or not you needed a life saving operation while simultaneously wondering if the cafeteria would close before I was done in the OR.  How do I know this? Because I’ve actually asked the clerk to call the cafeteria to set aside some banana pudding with ‘Nilla wafers while I was waiting to go to the OR for a gunshot wound to the belly. 

I know how to keep calm under pressure.  I also really like banana pudding with ‘Nilla wafers. 

And I’m not afraid to be in public in revealing clothing so it’s not the singlet that bothers me.  My closest friends call me Dr. Buttfloss in honor of the string bikinis I prefer at the beach.

So why the panic?

Because this was going to be my first competition with a lot of competitors.  What if I were finally revealed as a fraud?  This is what’s known as imposter’s syndrome.  Where you live in constant fear that others will realize that you’re a fraud and don’t belong in whatever situation you’re in.  That you’re never as smart/capable/pretty/strong whatever as others have thought you were.

There’s also a profound sense of the unfamiliar.  Blood, guts and alas, poop, are my daily life.  They don’t particularly scare me (unless I can hear the bleeding; that’s really bad).  But put me on a platform to lift weights in front of strangers and my mouth goes dry, my hands shake and my heart races. 

None of these things are conducive to making successful lifts.  The adrenaline helps make all my cleans high powers in competition, but the shakes have caused me to miss snatches and jerks. 

So I need to spend more time doing what my coach Nick Horton described at camp this week as noticing the emotion, but not letting it affect you.  Recognize it, acknowledge it, but don’t let it have power over you.  He recommends meditation as the mental tool for sharpening that skill which is something I’d like to pursue.  In the short term, I think just practicing the mantra of “this is weightlifting, not facing execution by guillotine” will help me defuse the mental tension.

Because let’s face it.  I love the sport, but it’s just weightlifting.  If I go 0/6 the worst thing that will happen is that my dad won’t have cool pictures to edit in photoshop.  No one will die, my kids will not love me any less and in fact might love me more because they’ll feel sorry for me. 

So as I finish the last 10 days of prep toward the World Cup, I am trying to learn to be a little bit more of an adult about my lifting and the competition.  I want to go in confident, but not cocky.  Excited, but not terrified.  And I’m avoiding donuts because I’m still a kg over weight.  I am learning to love baked kale chips. 

May the best woman win. 

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3 Responses to “Fear is the Mind Killer – More Lessons From Weightlifting Camp as I Prep for the World Masters Cup”

  1. Miriam SchwarzAugust 2, 2015 at 11:29 AM #

    You were at my first sanctioned meet in Charlotte. That week I had learned that my husband’s cancer might have returned and if you recall I was waiting for the results the day of the meet. I have terrible performance anxiety like you but that day I walked up to the bar and each time thought, “Ed, this one’s for you.” It helped me focus on something bigger than the lift in front of me. ♡♡♡♡♡♡

  2. Kathy FriendAugust 4, 2015 at 9:45 PM #

    Great post! Completely understand the “imposter” feeling. Good luck in Dallas!

    • Rachael KeilinAugust 19, 2015 at 2:47 PM #

      many, many thanks!

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