MENTAL TOUGHNESS WHILE RACING
How Female Triathletes can confidently face the emotional highs and lows during racing
During a race, you experience the pre race anxiety followed by the excitement of the gun going off. As the race progresses you may often feel periods of self-doubt, fatigue, anger or boredom. This article will explore how you can find ways to cope with these fluctuations in emotions and ensure your triathlon is more rewarding. Building mental strength will give you the confidence that no matter what is thrown at you, you’re strong enough to cope.
The runner’s greatest asset, apart from essential fitness of body, is a cool and calculating brain allied to confidence and courage. Franz Stampfl
Two Key mental training techniques will help you focus during a race
1. Self Talk
To be used through out a race (or training), for best results preparing self talk prior to a race essential
To be done prior to racing through out your training
1. Self Talk
An average person has up to sixty thousand thoughts per day; the unfortunate thing is that the majority tends to embody self-doubt or negativity (Selk 2009). Most of you have experience negative thoughts whilst racing, “Why do I do this?” “I’m hopeless at this sport”
“Extensive research in the sporty psychology world confirms that an athlete’s internal dialogue significantly influences performance” Seltz 2009
“Letting your mind have its way often cripple you with self doubt or negativity. Your body listens to what your mind tells it” Steltz
Focus on now and forget what happened in the past – so you had a bad swim, now it’s time to kill the bike. That’s easier said than done but how do you prepare yourself for these horrible thoughts?
1. Learn when and what triggers these negative thoughts.
Note the times during a race when your head played negative games with you. During most of my races my mind is over run with negative emotions during the last third of the bike and mid way through the run. This time of the race is a trigger period for me.
2. Find positive thoughts to overcome the negative
My run is the weakest part of a race and I always dread the run. Instead of sighing every time someone over took me, I’ve replaced it with counting the people I pass on the run, affirming in my head that I’m not as bad as my head is telling me. When you get off the bike and start the run, instantly many triathletes’ minds run through negative thoughts “I can’t do this, I can’t make it to the end”. Instead of focusing on the negative, think about your running form and running tall and strong. Celebrate every km mark you pass rather than counting how many you have to go.
3. Practice Practice Practice
These negative thoughts don’t just occur during a race, they follow you around while you’re training. Practice replacing these thoughts with positive self-talk and see which ones work best for you.
We all face self doubt, elite athletes and age group women, we face negative thoughts all day every day, so start practicing every day all day and you will only get better.
Visualisation is a personalized video of your desired performance e.g. A personalized video in your head of you swimming with perfect technique, a video of you going through the process of a quick transition. Visualization can be used to learn how to handle stressful events during a race e.g. If you get a flat, practice how you’ll calmly handle the situation.
Steps to great Visualisation for female triathletes (Seltz)
1. Choose your camera angle
(a) Camera is in the stands watching someone else do the race
(b) Camera is still in the stands but now watching you do the race
(c) The camera is your eyes, you’re actually doing this yourself and seeing what you would during a race
Camera angle C has proven to be best but also the hardest for most people
2. Pay attention to detail
Think of the scenery, the crowds or loneliness during sections of the race. Feel the wind, smell the air and hear the noise around you
3. Frequent and brief practice
This isn’t another 1 hour training session; you only need to visualize a couple of minutes a day and a couple of minutes prior to the race. Prior to training is a great time but I also find prior to going to bed.
4. Operate at race pace
This is a tempo workout and you should rehearse mentally at the pace you’re going to do the race at.
See yourself performing well at race pace, feel the way you want to feel in competition and finish the race the way you want to finish. Be sure to emphasize yourself managing the pressure of your race, make a mental note that you’re prepared to succeed. (Steltz) When the devil starts to try pull you down, remember your rehearsed positive angel and throw the devil away
These two techniques are very quick ways to build racing confidence and change your racing experience. Using these techniques will build mental strength not only in triathlon but through out your life