Unique Mental Block

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Unique Mental Block

Unread postby pvbell » Mon Apr 20, 2015 10:26 pm

Over the last 6 months I have been through a roller coaster of attitudes towards vaulting. I jumped a PR in December of 5.50, and was in love with the sport, but I seem to slowly degrading into a 'pit' of despair.

At practice I have trouble planting poles from an 8 left run. I know that often times this "mental block" is a result of a technical issue, but this is not the case. Greg Hull has reviewed my film, along with a number of Texas' 'old timer' vault coaches, that do not see anything wrong.

Another thought is that I may be burnt out. I took a break and I know that I am still thirsty to clear those big bars.

Have any of the elite vaulters out there experienced a mental block that frustrates so much that you punch a port-a-potty? I am experiencing that right now. Has any one consulted a sports psychiatrist? Did this become a dependency? . Please note that this is not a total mental block. I have no trouble taking up a 5m pole that's so soft Demi's daughter could use, or doing short run vaults. This block only occurs when I try to go up poles and make hard bars. I am currently unable to clear 5.20 from 8, which is just bumming me out. I would like to regain my confidence and get back into a healthy state of serious training.

So far this outdoor I haven't even beat my highschool senior self. LOL.

Please let me know what you guys have to say, or if you would like to see some more video.

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Re: Unique Mental Block

Unread postby Erica » Sat Apr 25, 2015 12:02 am

pvbell wrote:Has any one consulted a sports psychiatrist? Did this become a dependency? .

Very seldom does consulting a sports psychiatris cause dependency problems. I worked with Robert Andrews at the Institute for Sports Performance (tinssp.com) in Houston. My only regret is that we didn't start working together earlier in my career. He has helped many pole vaulters since then, and could be a good resource.

I don't think what you are going through is that unusual, you just have to be stubborn enough and disciplined enough to work through it. Learn about how your brain works and how to control it. Even Steve Hooker when through it on his way to being great. Good Luck!

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Re: Unique Mental Block

Unread postby newvaulter » Mon May 04, 2015 5:57 pm

Hi pvbell,
I'm sorry to hear you're having problems with running through from long run. I know exactly how you feel, and how frustrating that can be. I went through almost the exact same thing my senior year in college, and thought I'd reply in case the things we tried might be helpful for you. It's great you reached out to this forum; there are so many vaulters here with so much experience, and hopefully some advice or ideas will work for you.

After vaulting a PR indoors (from 9 steps), I started having more and more trouble planting from a long run, to the point finally where I just could not take off, no matter what we did. I could practice and compete from 6 steps, on tiny poles, without any problems, but ran through basically every time whenever we went back to 9. It got so bad that we started just competing from 6 altogether, and whenever I tried to compete from 9 I would usually run through all my warmups and all three attempts or maybe take off on the last one, but ended up no-heighting a bunch. It was really frustrating and hard for both me and my coaches, and we really didn't know what to do. We tried tons of pole runs, slide boxes, baby poles, taps at takeoff, and on and on. I met with a sports psychologist a couple of times and certainly didn't find it to be harmful. I'd recommend trying that, although for me I felt like it was hard for me to make a connection with someone who personally had no experience with pole vaulting. (That being said, I'm sure at least part of the issue was due to stress I was under from other things, and running through and no-heighting for months was itself extremely stressful, so that certainly didn't make it worse. I think any sports psychologist, while they may not be familiar with pole vaulting, can help with identifying how to reduce stress or frustration from what you're going through, which is helpful.)

I think one of the biggest problems at the time was that we only jumped from 6 or 9. I would always start with a few popups or one-arm drills, and then we’d either jump from 6 and then go back, or start at 9. When I started having a lot of problems taking off, we started jumping from 6 every practice first to get dialed in and then going back to 9. But for me at that time, it felt like everything changed when we went back to 9. The visual was way different, my posture and cadence in the run was different, I started the run differently, the pole was way bigger, and I felt like I had tons more speed into the takeoff. I always felt freaked out, like the pole was just going to get ripped out of my hands at takeoff or something, and I’d always bail and run-through. I think one issue for me was that it was just too many things changing at once, so even though I’d feel good from 6 and feel ready to go back and try jumping from 9, it was a whole new thing and I couldn’t handle it.

I give my coach a lot of credit for his patience and work with me through this. I know it was really hard on him as well, and I think we both felt like I needed to try something new. So after graduating that season, I switched coaches and we tried a completely different approach that ended up working really well for me. My first few practices, we only jumped from 4 steps. I had never done that before, and we were on really small poles, just running easy and focusing on being tall, technique through the vault, and so on. Whenever I felt anxious and thought there was a chance I might run through, I would just try to really force myself to take off. I’d think: “it’s just 4 steps, what could happen?” After a few practice sessions, I felt pretty dialed in from 4, and then we started adding some jumps from 5 steps. So I would warmup (on the track), start first thing with a handful of jumps from 4 (no popups anymore, use these as a good warmup for your shoulders and body), and then go back to 5. When I went back to 5, we’d always try to just change one thing at a time. So I’d stay on the same pole, and just add a step. I’d always think: “just one more step.” Everything was the same, but I was running one step farther. Most importantly for me, I made sure the run felt the same. I started with the same posture, the same cadence, and just had one more, quicker, step at the end. I count my steps up (“1, 2, 3,…”), so I think that helped it feel the same too.

After doing 4 and 5 for a session or two, we kept working back one step at a time. But we made sure that we only changed one little thing at a time, and I always felt like it was “just one more step.” So later I would warmup, take 3-4 from 4 steps, a couple from 5, a couple from 6, and maybe then have a whole practice from 7. Or I’d stop at 6 if that’s what felt good that day. We emphasized never running through, so if I went back to 7 or 8 and had two run-throughs in a row and wasn’t feeling it, we’d come back in a step to make sure I could keep getting reps in. I’d often stay on the same pole when I went back a step, so that only one thing changed at a time, and then push through poles as I stayed at that run.

Within a couple of months, I was back to jumping from 8 (I felt I had the speed and never ended up pushing back to 9) on decent poles, and jumped 5.50 again the next season. But I always stayed with this progression in my warmup, although abbreviated. I’d often go to a meet and take two warmup jumps from 4, then maybe one or two each at 5, 6, and 7, and then a few from 8 to get poles dialed in. Each time I made sure that the beginning of the run always felt the same. So jumping from 8 just felt like jumping from 5, plus then a quick “6, 7, 8” and plant at the end, and everything felt comfortable.

You should try it out and see if doing a very steady progression like this is helpful for you. I know it’s incredibly frustrating, and angering, and hard to know what to do, and everyone will respond to something different. But this worked for me, and I hope it’s helpful if you try it out.

Send me a message if you have any questions or there’s anything else at all I can do to help. I wish you the best of luck! Just remember to have fun!! It’s not going to work if you’re not having fun out there every day.


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Re: Unique Mental Block

Unread postby KirkB » Mon May 04, 2015 11:53 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience, Newvaulter. Your advice is very good. I don't know why you call yourself Newvaulter, because as a college grad, you seem to have tons of experience.

When you say "steps", you mean "lefts" of course. Just clarifying for any newbies.

I didn't have the issues you and pvbell have experienced, so I can only sympathize. I very rarely ran through, and I think the reason is that I did so many more short runs than long runs in practice, that I got into the habit of always taking off (even if it felt a bit "off"). So being able to move down 2 steps (at a time) until you CAN take off is a very good strategy to bust the mental block. And keeping everything consistent (only change one variable at a time - steps; pole; grip) is also a good strategy (to bust the mental block, but also as a general rule).

Besides steps, pole, and grip, the other potential variable is the standards settings, but don't let that be a variable - always keep them all the way back.

I never did do anything more than short runs (9 steps - yes, steps) and long runs (21 steps). But if I had it to do over again, I think I'd have a few more increments between 9 and 19. Say maybe 13 and 17 steps. A prereq is that you need a really good series of poles to do this (consistent increments). And if you do, then I think you'll find that it's easier to move up to the next pole (or down, if conditions warrant). Being able to move up 2-4 steps (or down 2-4 steps) as conditions warrant give you one more tool in your bag. This is true regardless of whether you're fighting a mental takeoff issue or not.

pvbell wrote: This block only occurs when I try to go up poles and make hard bars. I am currently unable to clear 5.20 from 8, which is just bumming me out. I would like to regain my confidence and get back into a healthy state of serious training.

So as Newvaulter suggested (and if you have the right pole series), get back to 5.00 (or lower) from 6; then move up incrementally in poles and in steps. Since it's a mental issue, fight fire with fire and make it a mind game by setting a rule for yourself that if you fail at a certain height, you must regress to a lower height and softer pole. If you succeed in taking off, reward yourself by being allowed to add 2 more steps to your run. And so on. In practice, you will not want to waste the energy of having to go back, so you will be more motivated to "force the vault" rather than run through.

You say that you're "still thirsty to clear those big bars", so this mind game might defeat your current mental block and get you back on track!

Also, learn about or read the book called "The Power of Positive Thinking". When you stand at the end of the runway, you need to visualize success. Do you always know that you'll clear the bar, or do the doubts occur partway through the run? You have to know that you'll clear it!

Run. Plant. Jump. Stretch. Whip. Extend. Fly. Clear. There is no tuck! THERE IS NO DELAY!

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Re: Unique Mental Block

Unread postby pvbell » Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:24 pm

Wow guys, I can't thank you enough for your responses! Also, I apologize for my tardy response. To sum things up, I didn't end up doing so well last year. I had a few good meets and made it through Regionals to Oregon, but still felt the tiniest mental block. Ran through all of my warm ups, and ended up jumping like 5.15 or something.

I am trying not to dwell on the past! I am currently implementing Newvaulter's plan. The 4 step is feeling very comfortable! the 6 step is coming. I am able to jump on 5m poles from a 6 step which I have not done in a while. Moving back to that 8 is the ultimate goal. We have our first meet next week and I will make sure to update you guys on the progress.

Also, I did speak with a sports psychologist that was formally a pole vaulter. Very very helpful. Visualization and positive thinking are so powerful in this event.

Thank you again for your beyond helpful responses everybody!

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