Mind Games.....

This entire lifestyle of endurance racing is about not just being physically ready to perform on race day but being mentally ready.  I believe that we can do anything we put our mind to.  There is no task that is insurmountable, there are just tasks that we have not solved yet.  If we look at the issue objectively and not from an emotional point of view then that issue gets whittled down. [caption id="attachment_2691" align="alignright" width="201" caption="Are There Other Choices Besides Smiling?"][/caption] Yesterday I posted about how and Ironman event is a race where you will be presented with problems and how you solve those problems will provide you with either an awesome race or one of those races that you dread.  If you know how to train your mind then these issues never seem larger than they really are. In my training and racing I never look at the distance as how much do I have left, but from the reality of how much I have accomplished.  When I get into the water for an Olympic distance event I know I have to swim 1500 meters, ride my bike 40k and run a 10k.  A total of 51.5 meters but that is the only time I look at it that way. As I swim I know how many buoys I have to pass and I divide that 1500 by the number of buoys.  If there are 5 turns, then I just tell myself that each buoy is 300 meters apart.  As I pass that first buoy I don't think to myself 'ugh I have 1200 meters to go' but instead say to myself 'awesome 300 meters done.'  As I exit the water I am not flustered that there are 50k worth of race left. I process the distance in terms of accomplishment and not in terms of what is left.  I have trained my mind to think that way.  I have trained my mind to go to mantras and positive thoughts.  If I add in negative thoughts then the race just got longer.  In reading I'm Here To Win Chris McCormack discusses the power of positivity.  He discusses having a file to go to when the going gets tough to find and remember the positive.  I couldn't agree more with him as I had already been practicing this. It was at this point that I came across an article on Active.com by Amanda McCracken for D3Multisport.com about exercises to train your brain.  This article was great and I have read it 3 or 4 times already.  For me there is no replacement for positive thinking.  If you allow the negative to get into your mind than Embracing The Suck is going to be even harder.  If you are focused on the positive then those points in a race that are horrible for everybody else won't be that bad for you.  Your ability to focus on the positive will push you past that point and have you thinking 'it wasn't that bad.' Here are the techniques that Ms. McCraken suggests that you do, and I agree with everyone of them:

[caption id="attachment_2689" align="alignleft" width="177" caption="Source: Slowtwitch.com"][/caption] Superman Booth

Clark Kent was a dorky awkward looking reporter badgered by Lois Lane until he stepped into a phone booth. Create your own imaginary phone booth where you feel extraordinary. Step inside mentally and physically. Create your safe and magical space. What colors do you see? Does it sparkle? Is there a buzz or a particular song playing in the background? What smells do you notice? What three adjectives describe how you feel inside? Define this space for yourself. Try to channel your inner child to tap into your imagination. Practice stepping into this magical space before every practice. Come race time, your phone booth will feel powerfully familiar. This is also what Chris McCormack speaks of.  Find that 'happy place' so that you can remove your mind from the race and allow you to get lost and ignore the pain.  My booth is filled with you my readers and those that I commonly tweet with.  You are my power source.  I think about the scenarios that you have gone through and how you handled them and I apply to myself.  I also have my Charlie's Angels in Karen (my wife), Claudia (my coach), and KC (my idol as I want to be a triathlete like her when I grow up.)  These ladies all have a different way of inspiring and motivating me and there is not a race or long training day that goes by that they are not there with me.

Helium Balloon

What does your inner voice say to you? Is it encouraging or does it drag you down into a mire of self-contempt? My inner voice is a skinny male elite marathon runner telling me I'm too fat to run as fast as the other girls I want to compete with. Solution? Simple. If I imagine giving that voice a hit on a helium balloon, I take away his power over me. Instead he sounds like a wimpy cartoon character who couldn't stand up to Bugs Bunny if he tried. My inner voice says to me:  You are racing side by side Chris McCormack in the Energy Lab of Kona or riding with Mirinda Carfrae in the Lava Fields of Kona.  It sucks but you will not allow yourself to quit as you are going stride for stride or pedal stroke for pedal stroke with the best in the world.  I think about how they would look at me and say: good luck mate this is going to be an epic day for both of us.  Putting myself in that situation right then and there and all the sudden the scenario I am in is no longer that hard.

[caption id="attachment_2688" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Source: Slowtwitch.com"][/caption] Stickers

Give yourself permission to be a kid again. Leave yourself visual reminders of key words that contribute to a mantra in your head. I use address labels and stick them to my bike, water bottle or body. My words are positive but have no opposite meaning so that my mind doesn't twist them against me: swift, breathe, glide. You can also leave Post-it Notes at your desk, on your mirror or by your nightstand with constant reminders of time goals or positive words you wish to use to override the negative voice before it takes that helium hit. I can say I have not done this at all, but what a fabulous idea.  The idea of having that saying on my aerobars or on my water bottle as I'm drinking from it to reinforce that positivity is awesome.  The easy words of thinkSPEED, prepared, and believe would give me that boost when the mind starts to wander over to the dark side.  I have used thinkSPEED this entire training season as I want to go sub 5:30 at 70.3 Austin and having those words on my bike, forearm and water bottle while racing will reinforce all the work I have put in to that point.

Perfect Practice

Like those tedious physical therapy exercises we neglect until our injury rears its ugly head, we forget these mental exercises until we are at the mercy of negative self-talk beating us into submission. If perfect practice leads to perfect racing, why not spend a little more time on your mental game before practice? Carve out one minute before your workout to train your mind with these techniques. You'll thank yourself come race day.  

How Do You Approach The Dark Side?

What Is Your Mental Approach To The Suck?

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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