When I rode horses competitively, I used to always get a bit anxious and hyperfocused before lessons. This made a lot of sense - I would often be asked to jump courses that were larger and more difficult than anything I'd face at a show, and I was aware that if I made a mistake, there was a risk of getting seriously injured or worse. I blamed my nerves on physical fear, decided I was a bit of a wimp, and learned to just ignore them and go on.
Much later, in my second sport of running, I noted the same feeling of dread before track workouts. The anxiety flowed on, even though the worst that can really happen during a workout is that I have to quit it early, which isn't that bad an outcome. It was enlightening -- so much of what I blamed on physical fear was actually fear of failure. With this new self-understanding, I once again learned how to deal with the nerves, and execute workouts and races (a big part of this is just rationalizing: "what's the worst that can happen -- it's not like I'm going to crash and break my neck"). Getting these same feelings before a hard pool running interval workout has been oddly reassuring -- I take it as an indication I'm doing something right.
Today was my first "test run" day -- jog a tiny bit on the track outside the pool to see how the foot holds up. And the crazy thing was, I felt that exact same sense of dread hopping onto the track that I do before any workout. Utterly ridiculous -- all I was going to do was jog a few steps, maybe as far as 100 meters, and then drop back down to a walk. And yet, my mind kept cycling to all the things that could go wrong -- fantasies of the bone breaking in two with the first jogging step. Fears that I was somehow going to screw this up, even though there's really no possible way to screw up alternating slow jogging and walking (except for pushing it too hard). Tons of performance anxiety, even though there was absolutely no performance to speak of.
It was pretty refreshing, actually. It established, conclusively, that nerves are just nerves, and self-created without a rational basis (that last realization is the helpful part).
So, I stepped onto the track, walked 200m, gritted my teeth, and started a slow, tentative jog. 100m and I let myself stop, and whadyaknow, still in one piece. Yup. Foot's still attached to leg. Very good.
I walked for 100m, and then repeated the process 3 more times -- each time with a bit more comfort and authority. Then, the big finale: 400m (one full loop) of the track at a very slow, careful jog. Shockingly, the jogging felt normal, and not strange at all. I felt that same surge of confidence that you get after any completed workout, though the "workout" here was barely 10 minutes total (walking time+jogging time), with a half mile of jogging.
Grinned, picked up my bag, and headed up to the pool to aqua-jog. Another track workout dragon dispatched, even if this was just a paper dragon. I'll try again on Friday or Saturday.