Sometimes it’s not the heat, humidity or training that derailed our race day. Sometimes it’s the muscle between our ears. That’s right, your brain plays a pivotal role in your triathlon success. Here’s some tips for building your mental toughness:
- – Mantras, find them and use them often … in your training and on race day. Sayings or one-liners will redirect your brain from anxiety and negativity. “Bubble, bubble, breathe” helps to calm our mind and breathing in moments of swim anxiety. “Relentless forward motion” keeps the brain focused on our overall goal.-
- – Mental games, such as singing “One Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall” while swimming and counting the number of people you pass on the bike or run, keeps your brain busy. When you see signs for Mandy out on the course, replace “Mandy” with your name and read it again.
- – Tell the bully in your brain that everything is ok. When your self-talk turns negative, remind yourself that the bully in your brain means well but there is no need for it to protect you. Then tell your bully over and over again that you are ok, everything is ok. That bully will recede, leaving you focused on the task at hand.
- – Relive your past. When you find yourself fixating on your performance metrics, remember where you started. Are you swimming in open water without stopping every buoy for a breather? Are you climbing and descending hills without anxiety now? Looking for the intangibles in your progress will help you see the big picture instead of getting lost in your smart watch’s data.
- – Remember hard races and workouts you completed. Again, this pulls your brain out of the trees and refocuses it on the forest. Remind yourself during a difficult race that you completed a long ride in heat advisory conditions. Tell yourself that you do hard things.
- – Gratitude. Shut down the negativity by looking around you and asking yourself, “What am I grateful for?”
- – Interact with others during race day. Thank the volunteers. Give high-fives to spectators. Encourage fellow athletes as you pass them and they pass you.
- – Get professional help. Sometimes the biggest obstacle to our success in triathlon and in life is ourselves. There is no shame in training your brain with the help of a mental-health professional. Change your thinking about counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists from one of stigma to one of empowerment. Your coach helps you train your body. These professionals can help you take control of your brain training.
As with our triathlon training, consistency is key. Build your mental fitness with regular workouts. What are you doing to get mentally stronger?