Are You An S Or An F Athlete?

[caption id="attachment_5048" align="alignright" width="204" caption="S Athlete - Motivated By The Achievement Of Success"]success_motivation_athlete[/caption] USA Triathlon has posted two articles in a series of three about Mental Fitness.  I have a belief that our speed or lack there of is tied directly to our mind and how far we are willing to push ourselves to get faster. Once I saw the headlines I was all over both of these articles.  They are truly eye-openers when you peer deep inside yourself as you are reading them.  You should really take a step back and evaluate yourself and also ask a family member to evaluate you as well, so long as you won't get discouraged or offended by what they say.  Sometimes your own reality is not exactly 100% accurate when making observations of yourself. In the first post of the series, Jesse Kropelnicki, discusses how mental fitness is the fifth cornerstone to the foundation of a triathlete.  The other four are training, nutrition, recovery, and race fueling/pacing.  He talks about how some athletes reacted to IMLP being wetsuit optional.  Some panicked and others shrugged it off.  In the grand scheme of things if you are competing for a Kona slot if everybody has to get rid of their wetsuit what has really changed?  That fast swimmer would have been faster with the wetsuit so you are not losing any time to him/her. He then pointed out the following: In essence, the key components of mental fitness in competition really boil down to the following:
  • Failure — Very little fear of it.
  • Goals — Not thinking about performance outcomes.
  • Focus — Being “in the moment” and focused on the activity at hand.
  • Experience — Having your body complete the task almost involuntarily.
  • Control — Sticking to your executables, and staying within your targets creating great sense of personal control.
As well as showcasing three markers of Mental Fitness.  They are motivation, task relevance, and athlete arousal. For me though Part II of the series was much more interesting.  It talked about F athletes and S athletes.  Nobody is 100% one or the other based on this article, but I found myself leaning toward the S athlete.  As you may have figured out by now F stands for failure and S stands for success.  F athletes were defined as those that are motivated by the avoidance of failure.  The S athlete is defined as being motivated by the achievement of success. An S athlete responds well to detail and tends not to perceive "failure" as detrimental.  When I race or when I train I know when I'm done I'm taking a lesson out of it.  Whether it be to focus more on cadence on the bike or HR on the run.  There is always something to be learned even if I run the race of my life.  Let's take last week for example.  To me I did not execute the race the way that I wanted and I was down on myself for that because the bigger picture is being ready for Ironman Texas.  In the grand scheme of things I succeeded in that I not only PR'd but wound up 3rd in my Age Group.  That is a tremendous day and yet there I was lamenting the fact that I could have raced better. [caption id="attachment_5049" align="alignright" width="183" caption="F Athlete - Motivated By Avoidance Of Failure"]failure_athlete[/caption] When I finished racing 70.3 Austin and set a 14 minute PR I was ecstatic with my bike as I had improved by 17 minutes over 70.3 California, but when I broke down the race I said to myself that I need to be smarter off the bike and on the run.  I have a goal for running the half-marathon at the end of 70.3 Puerto Rico and I am training as if every run was the race.  I learned about how to properly pace myself and how to forge the mental strength to not take off like a rocket ship and to conserve energy.  I am practicing this on every run whether it be a 20 minute run off the bike or a one hour run on the treadmill.  On Tuesday morning I had that one hour run and my goal was to keep my HR below 160 as well as start with an 8:30/mi pace and go from there.  At points I was running a 7:59/mi pace but my HR would hit 160.  My objective right then and there was to walk for 30-45 steps and bring my HR down and then start-up again.  I was successful in covering 6 miles at an 8:34/mi pace. Understanding that not every race is going to be a PR and not every race is going to be executed to perfection leads me to believe that I am an S athlete.  I can take the big picture view of a successful day and apply lessons to get better as well as see a race that was a complete failure and not get to down on myself but learn from it. Earlier I pointed out that nobody is 100% one way or the other and this paragraph proves that: At times, the S athlete may require a bit of help to concentrate their efforts on the importance of a key workout, or a local sprint race where they know they will win. Where the F athlete can be a bit too much like the Tasmanian Devil on race morning, the S athlete can too closely resemble Deputy Dog and might need some mental stimulation to get through a set of mile repeats.
I don't think anybody would ever describe me as Deputy Dog nor would I need mental stimulation to get through mile repeats while at others times I am the Tasmanian Devil on race morning.  I don't want to have anything disrupt me from getting to the starting line as I have put in countless hours and lots of sweat, blood and tears to get there.  I want that race to be the reward for the 3am alarm and sacrifices I have made and my family has made to get me to that point.
You can read the articles in their entirety here:

What Type Of Athlete Are You?

How Strong Are You Mentally?

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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