As I write this I can hear the strains of Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’ playing in my head… dum diddle um diddle um dum; dum diddle um diddle um dum… da dum… and I’m beavering away to get everything I need ready for the next competition.

And I’m not the only one!  There are hundreds of skaters all around the country busy working on the consistency of this or that jump, putting the finishing touches to a new season’s programme and hoping they will qualify for the British Championships.

Let me tell you a secret – the only things holding you back are your Gremlins.

And they just love to work with a pressure cooker – someone they can poke and prod and annoy and relentlessly tell stories to – until bam! The whole thing blows.  You kick the ice, you scowl and sulk and shout and cry and you’re really not very nice to be around.

The ‘pressured you’ is the one the Gremlins love to play with and taunt until it becomes just unbearable and you go into meltdown.

And here’s another secret: Meltdown Means Mayhem.  Those messy, stressy chemicals go flooding round your body when your mind is under pressure (dum diddle um diddle um dum…) and do precisely the opposite of what you need for a great skate:

  • your body gets stiff
  • your mind goes into black and white thinking and you get ratty and irritable
  • your IQ drops (“wait, what?!”)
  • The blood moves from your stomach to your neck, back and upper arms and thickens
  • extra oxygen forced into the brain and that thick sticky blood prevents your neurons from working properly, and gives you a headache

Recognise anyone here? (dum diddle um diddle um dum…)

Well it’s all very well knowing that stress is bad for you, but what can you do when the panic sets in and your focus narrows towards that one chance to get your qualification score? Of course there’s a whole raft of things you can do, but for now the most effective is to step back and look at the bigger picture.

Think about why you skate and what you want to achieve in the longer term. It might seem like a long time off, but actually now is the perfect time to start planning for next year’s championships. Next year’s competitions. As you keep competing throughout the year, aiming for that personal best each time and working on your consistency you’ll find that your confidence improves and your results get better and better. A relaxed and confident skate will get you far better results than a tense, nervous, panicky one.

So tell that Pressure Cooker Gremlin to simmer down. Set out your goals for the next year – or even longer – and work out your mini-goals or stepping stones to get there.  If you’re focused on the steps along the way, you’ll get there in no time and not even realise it!