Anxiety for Improved Performance

A recent jaunt through The Wall Street Journal exposed me to an interesting investigation into anxiety and its role in peak performance. I don’t care who you are, peak performance is a relevant goal on some level.

As an athlete and a coach, I can smell the words “peak performance” from a mile away. Immediately I dove into the article that revisited a study from 1908 that sought to find at what point anxiety helped performance and at what point it hindered it. The study was the inception of the Yerkes-Dodson curve. This curve creates an upside down U-shape with anxiety as the x-axis and performance on the y-axis.


Peak performance, then, resides somewhere between zero anxiety and maximum anxiety. The idea being that little to no anxiety yields little sense of urgency, passion, and focus. Think couch potato. Too much anxiety, however, can cripple the best of us.

Knowing that anxiety  can play a positive role in performance makes finding that “sweet spot” stimulus important. Today most cognitive coaching services folks with too much anxiety, but the other side of the spectrum need not be ignored. Folks that illustrate signs of depression, lack of motivation, or general stagnation may, in fact, benefit from some stimulating worry. Do you ever get anxious about the workout of the day? Great! Use it. I do, too.

Understanding that anxiety is important for high performance may put a healthy spin on those butterflies you feel in your stomach. Turning up the burners of nervousness may be just the kick you need to get things done. Procrastination is the oldest performance enhancing anxiety in the book.

Where do you fall on the curve?


Logan Gelbrich


Thursday’s Workout:

Perform 3 power snatches (135/95) every minute on the minute for 15 minutes.

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