Julie Learner, LCSW





Being intense, focused and driven is a goal for many athletes. This is often called being in the “zone”. There are lots of exercises that I use to help people build “zone time”, such as meditation, mindfulness practice, and breathing techniques. However, something I came upon recently, while speaking to several of my fabulous skaters, is how easy it is to cross the line past intensity, focus and drive and end up in a place I have termed “the heavy”.

When you put “the heavy” on your sport, things change rapidly. Rather than being calm and centered, you become anxious and worried. This worry often centers on future outcomes. With energy in future time, it is impossible to have all of your energy in present time, where it is greatly needed. The present moment is where all our power lies, and therefore, this is the place to be in order to soar, on and off the playing field.

“The heavy” also is about perfect outcome. Any accomplished athlete knows that while shooting for one’s best, perfectionism can be fatal. Intense, healthy focus promotes an ability to always strive for one’s best, accepting each moment, and making changes to build and grow skills in a dynamic way. Intense focus is like a river, and “the heavy” is more like a stagnant pond. Thinking strategically on one’s feet while performing or during a game enables an athlete to make adjustments and learn from each step, growing fluidly through each moment. When an athlete is in “the heavy”, there is no ability to do this.

Hopelessness is a clear indicator of being in “the heavy”. Talking to many athletes about this, they describe feeling like the game is lost before the fight is even over. They find themselves giving up, and as I have heard it described by one of the athletes I very much respect, it is as if they have fallen into quick sand. This makes it very hard to stay happy, and without being happy, it is very hard to perform well. In clear and intense focus, there is a love and a joy for the sport. “The heavy” makes athletes question why they are still doing the work.

Watching the line between “the heavy” and intense, dedicated focus is critical to long-term success. Sometimes, trying to fix things and make them different than they actually are can lead to resistance. Acceptance is the key to breaking through to new levels of discover and growth. As we make peace with all that IS, we allow the energy to change, grow, and move past obstacles rather than being destructive and negative. Letting go of “the heavy” is the first step to learning how to fly and soar!





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