Q&A with Charlie Unwin - Mental Performance Coach

Q&A with Charlie Unwin - Mental Performance Coach

Q&A with Charlie Unwin

Your questions answered in the video below 👇

If you would prefer to read a text version of Charlie's vlog - check out the video transcript below 👇

Amy Williams:

Hello everyone. It's Amy Williams here for the U Perform channel and we have Charlie hear, our mental performance coach. Now, today I have a piece of paper in my hand, which is a little bit unusual and it's because I have got some printed out questions from you guys, our subscribers and followers. So thank you for sending them in.

I'm basically going to throw some at Charlie today and you are going to be surprised and hopefully we'll go through some of your questions. So, first one I have today is from Suzie Cave and she says... Well her subject is basically around start line nerves. And she says, sometimes this can compromise my initial performance in a race, for example, the first shoot of a laser run. How do you work on trying to control these and overcome them?

Charlie Unwin:


Amy Williams:

So she sounds like a fellow modern pentathlete.

Charlie Unwin:

I know, a girl after my own heart. And actually for those of you that don't know what laser run is, just so you can picture the scene. Because I suppose the responses I'll give and the good thing about doing this with specific sports is that we should be able to extrapolate the principles and take them into any sport.

But a laser run, so I'm imagining now Suzie, on the start line, she'll basically run into the range. She'll have to pick up a pistol, shoot the target, about that big, five times. When she has got 5 green lights, then run out, do 800 meters back in, target, 800 meters, back in, shoot the targets, 800 meters and so on. So a bit like winter biathlon.

Okay, that's the picture? It's a great sport to have to learn this and my starting point for this and for Suzie is going to be being able to differentiate two different types of nerves or forms of nerves. One is in the head; so what we call cognitive anxiety. And one is in the body, somatic anxiety.

Now I happened to do my thesis on this because like I say, it translates well into other sports whereby understanding what affects performance the most. If we're anxious in the head, are you worrying? Or anxious in the body, kind of stressed, nervous, shaking. Yeah, exactly. All excited.

And of course there was no clear answer to that question and research shows that there is no clear answer. The reason that's interesting for this sport is because when you're on the start line, you haven't done any running yet. So the first shoot you do straight away. So you haven't run 800 meters. Some people find it much easier once they've done it 800 meters, they've kind of got all that nervous energy out of their system.

And then they actually find it easier, even though their heart rates go going at 150, those people are the people for whom they might struggle with the cognitive anxiety; they're kind of worried, and they're not focusing very cleanly. But when they do 800 meters run, they get into the swing of it.

For the other people they're very nervous in the body, nervous and tense which means that they'll suffer differently, I suppose, is probably the best way of putting it more through sort of tension, stuff like that. Okay. So in order to be good at this, I think we have to recognise those two things. What I would say is go back and watch last week's episode, because we did spend some time talking about this. And also my approach. There wasn't so much with the laser run. It was more just the pure shooting, but there are some good things on there.

I think, I think it's really essential, some of the common mistakes that athletes make on the start, right, they are not breathing properly. You're anticipating, and our anticipation response means that we breathe very shallow. So deep breathing has to be a part of your routine. Every time you train, before you start your training session, you've got to spend a chunk of time making sure you're breathing evenly, deeply. Practice getting all the oxygen into your muscles. And the relaxation as well, we've got to start on that start line from a point of relaxation, because if we're allowing creeping tension, we won't notice it's there until bang, we go, and we just feel like, Oh, this is difficult when it shouldn't be.

So breathing, relaxation well before you get onto the start line. The other thing with this particular sport is that visualization is essential because we're going from a kind of running mindsets to a shooting mindset. And the two are very different.

Running we can get good at, by working hard, pushing ourselves through pain barriers and, you know, maintaining our form, our rhythm. I encourage in this particular sport athletes to have an imaginary line, which could represent the start line at the very beginning, but when they've come around and done their second 800 meter and they crossed this line, it's about, I don't know, 200 meters out, 100 meters out from the shooting range.

The moment you cross this line, you go from a running mindset to a shooting mindset. What that means is that you start to focus on getting your breathing back under control. You focus on actively relaxing, especially your shoulders, your arms, and you start to tune in to the perfect shots. And then when you get onto the range, you're able to get into that sort of groove. So you are starting to sort of find that handrail, find that groove for yourself before you get there. So we're kind of using all our pillars, tactically at different times, if that makes sense. Does that make sense to you, Amy?

Amy Williams:

It does make sense. And I think you've answered Suzie's question there.

Charlie Unwin:

I would definitely go back and watch the last episode though.

Amy Williams:

Yes and if you want breathing techniques, actually Arron our fitness expert, we went through some good deep breathing techniques as well. So actually scroll on through some of our other episodes and you'll be able to actually combine both of them together.

All right, let's go onto our next question. Chris Pennington, he has said, how can you enthuse and motivate de-motivated individuals to unlock their potential? Now for me, I get asked this question so much, how can I stay motivated? You know, how do you keep going all the time?

And it's quite a hard question to respond to because I mean, my gut just always is like, look at your goals, you know, rewrite them, pat yourself on the back when you achieve little goals, et cetera. But actually it doesn't work for many people or you're kind of faking yourself. You're kind of like faking yourself to feel like you're motivated, but actually it's not enough.

Charlie Unwin:

I think that's good advice, Amy. I wouldn't be that hard on yourself. I think those things that you mentioned: be clear about what your goals are and do recognize small achievements, but that has to be done within the overall context of really fundamentally wanting to be where you are and wanting to do it. And I think that's often the sort of challenging aspect. It's more the global motivation that we have. And it's very difficult to find ourselves getting excited about little things. If actually there's something bigger at play that's just stopping us or holding us back or not getting us as excited.

It's interesting with that question because I'm guessing, I mean, certainly from the fitness industry, that would be a challenge. So PTs, and PTIs. So I'm guessing Chris is probably a PTI of sorts.

But actually it is a challenge in elite environments, especially big teams and squads, because coaches kind of tell this narrative of, well, you're paid, people would love to do what you do and you're paid to do what you do. Therefore you should be motivated every single day. It doesn't work like that.

As you probably know, we all have up days and down days. And the moment I'd say, this is the first piece of advice, the moment we get on our own back for not being highly motivated or energized every time we wake up in the morning we're pushing ourselves down, I think on that one. So I think there's something about recognizing that we are not going to be motivated, feel motivated every day. You know, there will be tough days. There was one little piece of advice that I took from an Olympic rower, who I think described it very neatly, if this is you. So this is not quite answering his question, but we'll come onto that. Because his question is more about how we get this in other people, but it might help.

This particular rower would say, you know what, I hate putting myself through that pain barrier and I don't always feel motivated. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don't. So what I do is I'll pack my bags and I'd have everything ready at the door ready to go out. And so when the time came to leave, all I'm going to do is I'm going to put my bags in the car and I'm going to drive to the venue and I'm just going to do that really well. And then of course you do that really well. And when you got to the venue, right, what I'm going to do now is I'm going to change and I'm going to be ready, ready to go and I'm going to do that really, really well.

And it was literally this idea of taking, you know, one bit at a time, but just through the whole process that gets you to training. And of course, very often it's a form of breaking things down into small chunks. You just take one step at a time and it's less demanding on us. And we get to the point where we start warming up and we start thinking about the set that we're about to do. And suddenly we're a bit more tuned into it.

You know, we're there, our bloods up. It's very difficult to get excited about something which you need to be in a certain state to do well when you're not in that state. So another way of doing that as well as just taking one step at a time until you get there in the right state is to actually visualize the session that you're going to do and how you want to do that. So being able to go through it in your head.

Now as a PT. I would always encourage explicitly or implicitly to take clients through visualization processes. And you don't have to tell them that you're doing it, but having some kind of communication about what's coming up next week, or what are we going to do tomorrow going through it and saying, right, so this is what we're going to be doing. And that this is going to be particularly tough because, and this is how we're going to get through that. And when you've done it, it's going to feel amazing. And this is how your body's going to adapt by doing it well. And every time, what we're doing is we're creating that sense of why, why are we doing this? And what difference is it going to make?

Now, if I can expand on that, it is not something we've spoken about yet, but where I'm sure we'll probably do a proper session on this, motivational theory and my favorite theory of motivation. Keeping it really simple; is the scale of motivation.

So the bottom end of the scale, I do it because I have to, I've been given a notes by the doctor to say that if I don't start engaging in physical exercise or eat differently, I'm going to suffer poor health. Something's going to go wrong. That person arguably is motivated, but they're negatively motivated. They're doing it because they're being forced to do it, or they have to do it. Now. That can be good for getting someone off the couch and, you know, doing something, going on a walk every day, but it will only last as long as the problems there. So we're driven by the needs or a problem that exists. It's like an athlete, you know, addressing a particular challenge, but only doing it because it's causing them a problem. Once the problem goes away, they stop the good behaviors that they probably need.

So that's the lowest form. Somewhere in the middle, they're doing it because they know it's a good thing. They know that if I go to the gym and I have a workout with Amy Williams, twice a week or three times a week, then I know I should be doing it that therefore I'm going to do it. So they are slightly more intrinsically motivated, but then there's not a big step between that and then saying, well, if I do it, I could look really good and I could get results. And this is where I think a lot of people are in the fitness world, is that if I do it, then I will pass this test or I will look better or lose weight. We're starting to move further up the scale of motivation because now we're chasing something positive rather than just trying to avoid something negative. Does that make sense?

And then we get to the very top end of the scale. So, we're near the top and we're doing it because we love the results. But the ultimate form of motivation, the most powerful form of motivation is I do it because I love the process. I just love running. I just love cycling, getting out there in the fresh air. If you have that deep intrinsic love, then you cannot stop someone from going out there and doing it. Now I'm trying to help other people to do this can be very tricky.

We cannot pretend that if someone hates doing physical exercise, but they know they're going to lose some weight. We might not be able to get them to the point where they actually love it, but we can move them towards that. How, and this links back to what you beautifully said at the beginning, Amy, which was first thought, do little things that help them understand how and why this works.

When they do make a difference, celebrate it, notice it, map it out. Map your progression, make sure you know where you've come from and look at it and talk about it. Get excited by it. It's why videos help. It's why, you know, being able to see this progress always really helps. And if you can, what's even better is get them to enjoy the process. It doesn't matter if that's a slightly better way of losing weight than that. If they enjoy doing that, do that, do that one, because they're going to do it without being told.

Amy Williams:

And that's where I guess you're trying to bring in those good habits. Isn't it? It's all very well saying, right, you need to run three times a week to lose weight and you have to lose weight because the doctors told you, if they hate it and actually just walking every single day is something that makes them feel happier. That it's still going to get the benefit. It might take a longer time to lose the weight or whatever, but it's got to be the sustainable habits and realistic. And like you say, to bring in that bit of enjoyment that is going to therefore keep them motivated.

Charlie Unwin:

Definitely, and it's finding those little things, which could be really personal, right? I mean, the difference between you and I, it would be different. Doing it with friends, doing it as part of a community would be very important for some people. I quite like going out on a long run on my own because I get away from other people, but you know, there's no right or wrong, but I think our job when we're in the business of helping other people, it's our job to know them. It's our job to know what's important to them. And therefore what excites them, what moves them up that motivational scale a little bit more. And if we're doing that on mass, it gets a lot harder, but nonetheless, yeah, the principles are there.

There is one, if I can leave people with a really nice story that brings that to life because you'll never forget this is a story. Apparently this is a true story.

There are these kids in Brixton, for some reason, I don't know why it was in Brixton, but there was kids who they didn't have anywhere to play football. There's three kids. And they used to rock out with their ball and they found the side of this old lady's house in this housing estate, because it was a good place to kick the football against.

And this lady, obviously, didn't like this football going, boom, boom, boom, against her wall. But she was a wily old thing, and she knew one or two things about motivational theory as well. So what she did is she went outside and she said to the kids, kids, thank you so much for coming to play football against my house. She said, I tell you what, here's 50p each and if you come back tomorrow and play again, hopefully I can give you some more money.

You're wondering where this is going.

So anyway, the kids think, wow, you know, not only are we doing what we love playing football, we getting paid to play football. And so anyway, they come back the next day and start playing football against their house. And she comes out and says, kids, thanks so much for coming back. I, haven't got 50p today, I've got 20p, but here's 20p. And if you come back tomorrow, I might be able to give you some more.

The kids were saying, Oh, 20p. It's not quite as much, but okay. Carried on playing football, got dark. Next day came back and she came out and said, look, I'm really sorry. I can't pay you anymore. What did the kids do? Put the ball underneath their arm, walked away with their heads between their legs. And I guess what it is, it's a really nice example of how actually being paid to do what we love can over time de-motivate us. Because we start to link it to extrinsic reward. I.e. Being paid.

This is something that's huge at football clubs, for example, because they forget the very reason they want to get up every morning and get better at their free kicks, at their passing, at their shooting and at their saving, is because they fundamentally love what they do, so it can work both ways. And it's something worth reminding ourselves of.

Amy Williams:

Maybe for Chris here, kind of bringing it back to him, trying to, motivate athletes, individuals, actually getting them to write down things that they love or exercises that they love or why they like to exercise. Is it because they just want to feel good, get away, be on the road and go for that run. Maybe that's a good place to start.

Charlie Unwin:

Yeah, definitely. And have that good news Bible just for your training. Don't put to do lists or shopping lists in there, keep it for your training. And yeah, you're absolutely right. What did I learn today? Like Amy gave me this really cool technique that helped me just to run a little bit more efficiently or cycle a bit more efficiently, which now I can go for longer, with less effort.

If you write that little tip down, eventually you end up over time with hundreds and hundreds of these little golden nuggets and you're spot on because you start looking at this book and you think, wow, I've got so many things that I can do to get better. So yeah. Always good.

Amy Williams:

Perfect. Well, that's really good. And hopefully, Suzie and Chris, we have answered, we? Charlie's answered your questions there.

Well thank you very much for tuning in again. Please hit subscribe, hit the button, hit the bell. Tell your friends and family next episode, we have some more questions coming on in from you guys and please keep them coming. We love hearing from you guys, so please send them on in and we will answer as many as possible. See you next time.

Tune in next Thursday for another Q&A with Charlie where we answer even more of YOUR questions.

Got any questions for Amy, Charlie and Arron? Let us know in the comments below 👇