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I've spent hundreds of hours training Noelle to be ring ready this year. What I haven't spent as much time on is getting myself ring ready. Skylar was writing about going to trials not to earn a title, but to practice her own ring skills, and that got me thinking about ring nerves.

At a trial this summer, I walked into the building with a blood glucose of 112 and left with a BG of 276. What did I eat? Nothing. That huge spike was all stress. Liver dumping way too much glucose, adrenal system dumping way too many hormones. When I'm stressed, my body prepares itself for battle. I know intellectually that I'm going into a trial ring. For my body, it's an arena full of wild animals. A cascade of stress hormones gets me ready for combat. I realized that's not helpful, and that I don't have to trial that way. It's supposed to be fun! Remember, fun? So, I made some changes.

First change, I changed the name of the heart racing, palm sweating, flood of icky feelings, from nervous to excited. I'm excited! I'm excited to be trialing. This feeling is excitement. Now, I knew I was lying to myself. I knew I was nervous, but I refused to call it nervous. It's excitement! By calling it excitement, I slowly started tricking my body into believing I was excited. Excited doesn't require preparing for battle. Excited is waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve. Excited is good! Trialing is good. I'm excited. Good!

Second change, I started doing a sports performance meditation. I know, meditation sounds like woo woo nonsense, but hear me out. The reason I started meditating was because I needed to bridge the gap between feeling ring excited and feeling calm and in control in the ring. What I need to bring with me into the ring is my game face. How do I find my game face? I found it through meditation. Specifically, Winning Sports Performance - Daytime Meditation.


This meditation isn't "spiritual," which I find off-putting when I'm listening to a guided meditation. One person's spirituality is another person's blasphemy. Instead, it helped me learn to concentrate on my breathing, concentrate on being calm, learn to visualize doing rally well. At first, I was unable to stop my mind from wandering while listening. I kept doing it anyway. The practice of finding stillness is like practicing any sport. At first you're clumsy. Then, you get better at it. I found this meditation invaluable. So, I'm passing it along.

Third change, I learned to meditate with my eyes open. Focusing on my breathing, on my inner state of well-being, with my eyes open, lets me meditate in my chair ringside. I think "calm" when I breathe in. And "chaos" when I breathe out. Simple two phrases. Breathe in, hold, breathe out, eyes open. I use the Breathe App on my Apple Watch, too.

Fourth change, my car is my refuge. The emotional energy in a trial environment can get overwhelming. If I'm around people who are feeling stress, I'm going to absorb their stress like a sponge. By escaping to my car, I get a moment to collect myself and refocus.

The results of these changes have led to higher scores and more confidence.

What are some things you do to help you get yourself mentally ring ready?
 

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1. Repetition. I got nervous my first few times, but after that, I didn't get nervous at all. I've had the same breakthrough with public speaking. It was my worst fear, but now that I have to do it all the time in grad school, I'm nearly over it.

2. Not taking it too seriously. While I think you should train yourself and your dog to the best of your ability before you enter any trial, I also think it's important to remember that this is a hobby. It really should be fun for the person and the dog. For Frosty and me, it is not currently fun, so we're on a break.
 

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Yes, repetition is huge. I arrive knowing roughly what to expect now, and that also keeps me from feeling as stressed. And I agree not taking it too seriously is important, too. I'm trying to strike a balance between serious enough to do well, and not so serious that I'm stressed out by it. I'm not good at finding balance! But, I am learning.
 

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Click,as you know we don't do performance work but I think this focused meditation is a very important tool. I know that for me being calm results in Asta being calm. And this is so good for training (I tend to be nervous when training) I especially need calmness and focus when I am training good manners when out and about.

When I am in crisis, Asta, does his job. Furthest from calm that you can get He will bark and get very excited, look for my DH till he finds him. Nudges me non-stop when I need medication.
The only real calm skill I have taught him is Stay Close.

I am sure you and Noelle will learn more and more. No worries, you got this girl.
 

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This sounds great. I do a lot of visualization in rally,hence I do only 2 walk-thorough trips. (I NEVER walk a paperclip-once in the trial is enough!:afraid:)

My newest tshirt,which I am hoping will penetrate from the outside in :alberteinstein: "Believe In Your Team"..IF we ever make it to the trial ring!:adore:
 

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I have had a horrible cold/allergy thing going on this last week or so. My clear thinking on things like has been limited, but I am finally more tuned in and can add some thoughts here.


It is essential to be a tuned in team. You both have to know your routine from start to finish in terms of how you will warm up and get to the ring entrance. You have to make sure that your conveyance of information is clear and direct. Tiny things can make a difference. What foot do you step off on if you leave for a recall vs. for heeling? For some of this it is useful to practice your part without the dog.


I also think you need to know something about where you will show, how far in advance of your class you will get there and set up and how noisy it might be, etc.


Remember that even if you don't qualify you can learn from that trial by ideally having someone video your entry. If you don't get video write yourself some notes after you put your dog away about what you know you did that was unusual.


Practice the mundane things regularly. Make sure your ring entries and exits and your exercise to exercise routines are solid. Disconnecting on the in-betweens are where more people have problems than in doing the exercises. Or if you lose your connection moving from one exercise to the next you will end up being unsuccessful in the following exercise.
 

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To add something I thought a lot about this week, I think that if you make sure your dog's training can stand up to successful exercises under all sorts of "unexpected" conditions that make staying connected to him or her harder than a trial is likely to be then your confidence automatically goes up. To that end I spent a lot of time on staying on task with strange distractions this week. For one sort of example I decided to leave all sorts of things from other exercises than the one I was working on out. In the picture below you can see the main set up is for utility (the two jumps) but there is also a set up of articles, now on the mat with broad jump boards along side the pile to keep Javelin working and returning from in the pile. There is a bucket I used while I was working on some position changes. I had the stool from doing the articles out with Javvy's dumbbell on it. Behind my reflection in the mirror you can see I had the outside door open (there is a wire mesh half door (no worries, nobody could run off). Lily is next to me and Javelin is on a down stay off to our right. Despite all that was happening both dogs either held their down stay or ignored everything other than what we were doing and the other dog. I gained a lot of confidence in what each of them truly understands from our session this morning and that will make things better all around for each of us going forward.


put challenges in training.jpg
 
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