If you’re like most people, the uncertainty Corona Virus has placed on our future can cause varying levels of stress and anxiety. Naturally, our brains are in survival mode, constantly scanning for what’s safe, what’s not, and complete uncertainty is not something we are not entirely adapted to dealing with.
We find ourselves resisting the unknown and instead, searching for information and reassurance, painstakingly waiting for that certainty. But what if the certainty we’re looking for already exists?
Kiwi, Braden Currie is known as one of the most resilient athletes in the world of Ironman and believes the certainty we seek is closer than we think; merely a decision away or in other words, an agreement of awareness between yourself and your mind that needs to be signed and sealed; sooner rather than later.
There’s an un-canny link between the gruelling survival-mode athletes in the top 1% endure within each second of each race, and the mindset required to achieve internal peace during crisis. This is not a story of superiority, there’s frankly something good super-athletes have had the opportunity to learn enabling them to help others during this time and Currie delivers the goods.
Imagine tying your entire life to one end goal whereby the difference between success and failure comes down to milliseconds on the finish line or something as fickle as ‘who had a better quality sleep the night before’. Everything has to run like clockwork and even when it does, the stakes are high. Currie delved into a life of uncertainty when he committed to a career in professional racing and has had to make mindful adjustments along the way to sustain it.
“When I’m racing, my brain wants to be in a heightened state; it wants to over-estimate threats and underestimate my ability to handle them. I’ve had to train myself to keep it in check. Letting it take control of me during a race results in a physical response of stress, which can be useful at times to help me push that 10% harder when I need to, but it can also lead to pushing too hard too early and disenabling me from racing at my best from start to finish.
My career of attempting to push my body to its physical limits has given me many opportunities to understand how my mind works. I strongly believe now more than ever how important mind set is in relationship to performance. I have to constantly check in during a race and decide what thoughts to acknowledge and what to ignore. Sometimes the mind just panics…..and I know that if I take that emotion on…then it will be game over”.
In a similar fashion, the ‘fight or flight’ response can trigger a downfall in our immune systems at a time when we need it the most. Currie never imagined there would be a cross-over of this mind game to normal life but admits that in the first week of lock down he slipped into a state of ‘waiting’ for that certainty so that he could execute a plan after that for what the year will hold. Week two of lockdown in the Currie household has been about overriding the brain’s survival mode and accepting what is happening, embracing it, letting go of resistance towards it to then be okay with it.
“I’ve realised this crisis isn’t going to be a quick fix. You have to find a point where you accept that. I’ve become aware of this and have started training as if I have a race to go to. For me, it’s about compartmentalising to achieve the best outcome; train within the limits of lockdown to the best of my ability with the original aim of Kona and continue on this path, even with the unknown.
Really, it’s about being in the moment because right now, that’s the only thing we can control and have the opportunity to make the most of.”
Currie is adamant that finding things to isolate, improve on and go deeper into is a great strategy for life in lockdown and that whole-hearted acceptance of the situation creates space to see new opportunities.
“Acceptance allows you to take the pressure off and let some things slide a little bit. For me, swimming during lockdown can’t happen, my run volume has also had to decrease significantly and I’m ok with that – it’s out of my control. I’m focusing on what I can control; cycling on the wind-trainer at home. Luckily for me, that’s my weak-link, so there’s no excuses after lockdown if that discipline hasn’t improved!” (laughs).
Photo: Korupt Vision
Embracing valuable time at home and with the family is a key focus for Currie – “I’m really enjoying the lock down and the simplicity we are now forced to experience and I’m just making the most out of each day. The most consistent challenge through this will be battling with the unknown, for me, it’s not knowing when I’ll be racing next. The only guarantee I have right now is my family, my home, and my wind trainer! There are no other distractions”.
There are great things that can come from learning to exist happily with the unknown, Currie concludes.
“For me, it’s making me hungrier to get back racing because you realise you miss it when you don’t have it”.
Our primal instincts exist everywhere and in everyone – unless you take control. We don’t need to respond and enter ‘fight or flight’ mode during lockdown because we aren’t being chased by a tiger, we don’t need that extra 10% that comes in useful for Currie during the Ironman World Championship; our supermarkets are stocked, we have shelter and we have fire and the opportunity to remain fit and healthy.
Understanding and making the separation between the survival-mind and ‘you’ is paramount to daily acceptance of what is; a super-power we can all take into the unknown.