As many of my athletes are digging deep getting ready for some short course races here in south Florida I wanted to discuss mental skills and specifically short course racing and high intensity training. Typically athletes racing short course will be pushing a higher intensity than those doing 70.3 or Ironman distance races. It is just the nature of the length of the race. For a sprint triathlon you can literally push your top end the entire race, but if you tried that for a long course race, you would most likely finish poorly or not at all. Mental skills are actually some of the most important skills any triathlete could have in order to be successful (short course or long course) and they are required at any level. If you signed up for the race to begin with you had to overcome your mental objections to do so and that is a mental skill in itself!
But, I want to get a little more detailed and ask the question “How do you get through the toughest of your training workouts?” You know those days when you want to quit but have 3 more intervals or when it is SO hot, you feel you may pass out or when the finish line is 200 yards away and you start to sprint for it. What do you say to yourself to push through and get the job done? This is what I want to know.
I have done some research and have also been using a few tactics that work well for me, but I would love to hear from you as well. Everyone is motivated by something different and driven by different motivators. So What Is yours?
Is it the pizza and ice cream after the race that helps you push though?
The chance at beating your local rival/ buddy for bragging rights?
Beating your own best time and creating a Personal Record (PR)?
I can tell you for me, always working to just be better than my last race is what drives me. I have been racing for almost 20 years, sometimes I am just happy to be out there and could care less how I do because I had been injured and couldn’t race for a while. Sometimes I am in shape but using the race as a measuring stick to see how much more into training I need to get if I want to PR. And Sometimes I am dialed in and ready to have my best race. Here are some strategies I have found that work for me and others I investigated:
COUNTING – Whatever the race/ workout I always use my counting tactic. When it gets tough I just start counting my exhales up to 11 and then start over. Simple and yet so effective to distract the mind away from the discomfort (pain!) This is called dissociative strategy- basically thinking of anything except what you are actually doing- it’s a great skill to practice to get through some tough training and racing.
Associative strategy: Focus on the job at hand and how you can make it better, relax shoulders, arm swing if running, form for swimming and running. Another method is to recall prior tough training sessions or race results that ended well. Remember how good it felt when you succeeded before and really push to get those same results and feeling. Say to yourself, “I’ve been here before I can do this again.”
Goals: Achieving the life long goal can be a huge motivator so always reviewing your goals and why you are doing what you are doing can be super helpful in getting through a tough race or workout.
Repeating a positive mantra: “I am a strong efficient runner” vs “I suck at running” which do you think will give a better outcome? Pain is temporary quitting is forever- one of my favorites!
Here is a link to one of the articles I referenced:
And an awesome webinar that talks about mental toughness and it is a skill we can all attain!
Now it’s your turn. I would love to hear from you what strategies you employ when you need to DIG DEEP in that suitcase of courage.
I look forward to your responses so others can learn from you as well!