Mental Means As Much As Physical

I have always believed that the mental aspect of training is just as important as the physical part of training, but I did not always get it.  I used to dread getting on the trainer because I just knew it was going to be endless hours of pedaling and going nowhere and it just didn't seem to mean too much.  I had the same belief of the treadmill and even swimming endless laps. It wasn't until one day I spoke with Jeff, Big Daddy, Jon and Patrick that I realized that it was all about embracing the suck or pain.  I fought through the mental hurdle that the treadmill was just boring or that the trainer was a death trap.  Once I did that I got faster on the bike and started to enjoy the treadmill for short speed work where I was forced to hold a pace or fly off the back. This mental breakthrough coincided with my mindset of envisioning a race.  I go through a race in my mind by thinking of the pace I want to set in each discipline and how each will be attacked.  Will I go out hard and taper off to be strong for the next discipline?  Will I ease into it and then negative split that portion of the race?  Did I need to conserve my energy all for the run because it is all uphill?  As you can see getting out there and pushing your body is not the only part of training.  You have to train yourself mentally and be prepared to go the extra mile. A while ago I found this article titled 5 Mental Race Day Tactics to Turn You Into A Triathlon Ninja.  (click here for full article) Here are the 5 points that the article made and my thoughts about each point: Are you a triathlon ninja? Do you want to be one? Triathlon Ninja Race Day Mental Tactic #1: Break Up. While your subconscious mind can grasp the concept continuously swimming, cycling and running from point A to point B, or even of traversing 140.6 miles in a single day, your conscious mind (the part that actually dictates your race day decisions) is easily distracted. For a triathlon ninja, this distraction can be a good thing, because you can feed your conscious mind tiny intermediate goals to break things up. Rather than having to making it to the finish line, you convince your body to make it to the next buoy, the next telephone pole, or the next aid station. I personally divide most triathlons into much more than 3 separate events (swim, bike, run) and instead typically categorize 6-12 separate “sections” of the race on paper, then study that paper going into the race. I have always envisioned a race in pieces and parts.  You gain confidence as you go past a certain marker that you set for yourself.  I also do not say to myself that I have 14 miles to go, instead I say that I just did 75% of the ride or 42 miles.  Accentuate the positive and not think about what is left.  If you think about what is left then you start to think about how tired you are.  By saying you just did 42 miles you will typically say that the next 14 will be a breeze and believe in yourselfe. Triathlon Ninja Race Day Mental Tactic #2: Dig Deep. There’s very little you’ll experience in a race that you haven’t already experienced in training. You just have to remember to dig deep enough during the race to call on those times in training when you headed out the door to run in torrential rain, rode your bike 30 miles on half-inflated tires, or finished off 1500 meters of a swim while resisting the compelling urge to rush to the bathroom and take a dump. During a race, the slight discomfort that we put up with in training can sometimes mentally or physically derail us. So when the going gets tough, think back to the hardest part of your training, including somehow getting your heart rate near maximum at 5am in the morning, and draw on those episodes during the race. This is the embrace the suck/pain part of training that you apply to the race.  We all know that at some point the race is going to hurt, whether it be a sprint or Ironman.  There is going to be something that makes us think, even for a moment, that continuing is going to be impossible but if you remember that time during training when the 3am alarm went off and you went out and ran 15 miles you can get through that next part of the race. [caption id="attachment_3939" align="alignright" width="172" caption="It takes more than the physical"]heart_soul_mind_strength_ironman[/caption] Triathlon Ninja Race Day Mental Tactic #3: Ask Why A triathlon ninja knows their motivation for doing triathlons. Regardless of what your motivation is, you need to identify it and know why you do triathlon. Then, when you’re riding up the steepest hill of the race, ready to fall off your bike and puke, you can remember that the whole reason you’re doing this is so that you look sexy for your tropical vacation in 2 weeks. Or whatever motivates your ninja heart. I race to get better.  I race to be an example.  I race to inspire and motivate.  I race to see my wife at the finish line.  I give Karen my wedding ring before every race and it is my goal to get to the finish line as fast as I can so that I can get my wedding ring back.  You have your reason for doing a triathlon, don't forget it when the going gets tough. Triathlon Ninja Race Day Mental Tactic #4: Harness Energy You’ve probably seen the video game or movie where the superhuman being clutches two hands to their chest, creates a giant ball of fiery energy then releases the burning orb into a crowd of fierce opponents, dispersing the enemy like rag dolls. A triathlon ninja has those same superpowers. When you go running up the beach from the swim, harness the energy of the screaming crowds. Feel it. Use it. When you ride through the aid station, feel the positive energy emanating from the generous volunteers, and use that too. And as you run, try to smile. This smiling strategy helps significantly– because people smile right back at you and cheer you on (whereas nobody really claps much for the triathlete who looks like they’re on Planet Hell). I don't think I need to go into the always smile any further since that is my motto but let's talk about it for one second.  Besides the fact that people will smile back, think about what your competitors think as you are right there with them and your smiling (even if it is fake.)  They are thinking to themselves 'how in the world are they smiling when this just sucks.'  Well as you pass them you gain confidence and you continue to build that up and then your smile turns genuine.  What happens after that is that you pass through a photo section and your race pictures look great as opposed to the beginnings of death. Triathlon Ninja Race Day Mental Tactic #5: See Success Close your eyes. Can you imagine the feel of the water in your hand during the swim, the air blowing by your cheeks on the bike, and the slap of your foot against the pavement on the run? The best athletes on the planet regularly engage in visualization, in which they close their eyes and imagine everything happening perfectly. This takes practice and imagination, but your mind can be trained to visualize powerfully. Visualizing success is the first key to success.  If you believe that you can't do it, then you probably can't and your already defeated before the gun goes off.  I think about this when people tell me how nervous they are of the open water swim start.  If you are that nervous then it is going to be worse for you then for the person who says to themselves it is 200 meters out of a 1.2 mile swim or 2.4 mile swim and I can get through this.  Visualize success and it will come. So what do you think? Can you be a triathlon ninja? You bet you can. Remember... I think I can be a triathlon ninja and I will keep training my mind as well as my body!

What are your mental tips and tricks to get through a triathlon? marathon?

Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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