When it comes to training and racing the mind is often the biggest obstacle triathletes have to overcome. For some training and racing is something they look forward to. They have made it a part of their world and they have been able to associate it with a positive. However for others just getting out the door can be their biggest foe.
This is especially the case in winter when it is cold, wet and miserable and also if they have been struggle with form or injuries. The easiest way to understand this is to think about the words you have running through your mind before each session. Are they associated with enthusiasm, excitement and want or doubt fear and trepidation?
If you are like many and it is the latter then the key is to find ways to override the brain, to refocus it on something that isn’t as fearful.
After years of repeated injuries going out for a run for me has become a thing I dread. The pain involved with each step, the fear of breaking down again and the woe of not being as fast as I know I can be have eventually taken their toll. Tuesday night’s especially filled me with dread as I knew what we were up for each night and I doubted I would be up for it.
Fortunately I have been able to find a way to override it. All I have to do is simply tell myself I don’t have to do the session. All I have to do is the warm up. After that I can make up my mind as to whether or not to continue. If I know I only have to do the warm up and then find out if I am up for the session I am far more positive about the night.
And in pretty much every instance (except for last week when the warm up told me I was tired) of late I have finished the warm up feeling great and ready to go.
Just like the old joke about how do you eat an elephant – one bite at a time, breaking a bigger event down into smaller more manageable parts is a simple way to control the situation. Those who focus on the whole inevitably become over awed and often fail to get started.
Likewise those who succeed are also able to focus on a positive emotion/experience they will get from finishing the session. It could just be the buzz of adrenalin you get from working hard, or it could be from seeing your numbers post session or filling them in your diary, associate the session with a positive and you are more likely to succeed. Maybe that is why the coffee or beer post ride or run have become ingrained as a key part of Laker training.
So with another month or so of colder wetter weather ahead of us, investing time into your thinking is a valuable training session. The skills you learn can then be applied to racing. This is why we use things like a 5km TT to provide opportunities for people to learn about their mind as well as their fitness and pacing strategies
The following picture highlights the science behind how our mind works and how, if we harness certain chemical pathways, we can get it working for us. Just remember you are the one in charge of how you feel, but it does take a bit of work to get things on the right pathway. And when you look at the list a triathlon training session can tick off most of these, by- ticking boxes, sharing a coffee, having fun and working hard.