By Chris Creveling
Chris Creveling is a 2014 Sochi Silver Medalist for Team USA, in short track speedskating. He is also a 2018 Olympic hopeful, and spends his days training on the ice 6 to 8 hours every day, entirely dedicated to his sport. We asked Chris about his Olympic experience, and what it means to Go for Gold.
What is it really like to compete at the Olympics? You've competed many times over in order to get to that level, but is there a different feeling/ mindset that comes along with such a historic worldwide event?
First of all, the Olympics are a crazy, high energy, amazing, overwhelming event for everyone involved. It’s impossible to go there and not feel the buzz that is going on 24-7. When I competed in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, my focus was always on maintaining a good plan and keeping things simple. There was always so much going on around me, it was easy to be overwhelmed and stressed.
I think the main focus is looking at everything on the agenda for the day and making things simple. Let’s say I am at the Olympic Games preparing to race. Since we are talking about the Olympics, there is a lot of pressure to be prepared for each race and I want to go out and kill it every time I’m on the ice. It can be overwhelming to think about all the things that I need to do each day. If winning an Olympic medal is my goal, then my focus needs to be honed in on that race and being mentally and physically prepared for it. So what did I do? I used my phone to create reminders of the things I needed to do each day. I removed the other tasks, and that made it easier for me to keep things simple and focus on what was important.
What strategies do you to use to keep your mind in the right headspace, at this level of competition, both during practice and races?
To be honest with you, I am almost always in between practice sessions or competitions. Speed skating requires you to commit your entire day to one purpose, one goal, and one mindset. We train 6-8 hours per day with very limited breaks in between workouts. That’s right, I said 6-8 hours PER DAY. That leaves very little time to fool around. But after years of experience and trial and error, I’ve found that what I actually need is to be happy and have fun in order to perform my best.
With such limited time I like to take a break with my friends and go out for lunch. Food is always an essential part of my training routine, and it helps me to relax and have a good time with the people I care about. We have fun and joke around the entire time, so that helps me to stay level headed and relaxed. If I’m not with friends, then I’ll just enjoy a meal alone while I set my phone down and unwind for a few minutes. Afterwards I always feel centered and energized.
What does mindfulness mean to you in the context of speed skating?
The racing in short track is action packed. If you lose focus for one second, there is always a chance something can happen. That’s why it’s important to be mindful of your surroundings, who you are skating against, how you plan to skate each race, basically anything that’s under your control. There are literally hundreds of variables that come into play with each individual race.
When it comes down to it, you need to know which variables are under your control and be mindful of those. It’s a very complex situation that needs to be simplified and put into perspective. The first step is finding out what those variables are. Once you can identify the variables that are/aren’t under your control, then everything becomes very simple. When things are simple, you can then relax. When you’re relaxed, you perform better. Starting to see a pattern??
How important is your mindspace in reaching your athletic goals?
I like to think about only a few things right before I start a competition. All the outside distractions and negative thoughts can be acknowledged and let go. Your mind can either be your most powerful ally or your worst enemy.
The best athletes will tell you that their best performances happen when they are relaxed and focused. Now that I have identified what is and what is not under my control, I can then be focused and more prepared to win. This applies to sports, to your career, and ,truly, your life in general.
Chris Creveling is a USA Silver Medalist and an Olympic short track speedskater. He has competed for the last decade, including three World Championships and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Chris grew up in Kitnersville, PA; he started skating inline when he was in diapers because his parents owned a roller rink, and switched over to the ice in 2007. Outside of skating, Chris’s hobbies include hiking, biking, camping, gaming, cooking, playing basketball, and motorsports. (He’s a big fan of Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors!) Chris runs his own online fitness coaching business, CrevFit, and his favorite speed skating moment is when Shani Davis won the 1000m gold medal in Torino and Vancouver. He believes: "To be the best you have to beat the best.”