Mental Toughness: Going the Distance
Guest post by professional triathlete Brad Seng
As athletes we invest a significant amount of time, energy and financial resources in our sport. It is very easy to get consumed by the numbers to ensure we are getting in the appropriate amount of volume while overlooking one of the more important aspects of endurance racing – mental strength.
All too often I have seen well-prepared athletes lose it on race day. In general, focus your mind on things within your control. If an obnoxious, beyond Type A athlete is creating drama in transition, do not expend your energy on trying to fix her/him. If the swim appears rough or dark clouds loom above, remind yourself you are prepared and stay calm with a few deep breaths. I have found using positive self-talk and simple mantras to be helpful on race day. Phrases like, “Slip through the water”, “I am strong” or “Light as a feather” can be used as mental prompts to keep you focused on what really matters. I recently experienced one of my best mental/spiritual performances during Ironman Lake Placid. After struggling through the later stages of the bike with stomach issues, I was able to get myself back in the mix during the run through positive self-talk and focusing on my form. These mental prompts enabled me to run into a top 10 position. A few powerful strategies for strengthening the mind include:
- Goal setting – write some notes on paper to include both outcome (time) and performance goals (maintaining a present focus, cadence, running form, etc.) Be prepared to adjust your goals on the fly as the day unfolds
- Visualization – spend some quiet time visualizing your perfect race and how that feels to include the sights, sounds & scents of racing (use course videos via the internet to give you some good imagery)
- Positive Self-talk – create a few simple mantras and use them as prompts throughout your race to propel you to the finish line
There are plenty of highs and lows during a race and having confidence in your preparation along with calming the mind can make the difference between a great race experience and one filled with frustration.