Is Your Head Getting in the Way of Your Racing?
Marathon, Cycling and Open Water Swimming
What does it take for you to reach your potential as an athlete? The true challenge in triathlon, marathon, cycling and open water swimming is the competition between you and the course, you and the clock, but primarily between you and your mind.
Success in these endurance sports is all about your mental ability to handle the pain and fatigue of oxygen debt, about your ability to master the limits that you think you have. The endurance sport athlete's most formidable opponent can be found in the mirror. You are both the problem and the solution!
Are you mentally tough as an athlete? Is mental training an active part of your training? Do you know how to consistently harness the power of your mind to lift the level of your performance? Or are you your own worst enemy out there? Are you the kind of athlete who beats him/herself well before the race's finish?
Perhaps one of the first mental demands that you must address in your sport has to do with motivation. Do you have the inner drive to do what's necessary to achieve success? Do you have a meaningful goal that helps keep you focused and moving forward through the brutal and sometimes monotonous grind of daily training? Without a "big enough why" or a personally compelling goal your motivation will stall out. You have to be able to ask yourself on a daily basis, "is what I want in the future important enough for me to sacrifice and hurt right now?" Far too many athletes trade what they want the most, for what they want right now.
Additional demands in endurance sports include...
- Consistently practicing "pushing the envelope." You have to be willing to regularly bust your butt. That is, you must live the winner's creed, get comfortable being uncomfortable!"
- Developing the ability to handle competitive pressure. If you can't learn to control your nerves, then you'll never race to your potential. Staying cool in the clutch is a mental skill that you can easily master with practice.
- Mastering pain and fatigue. This means that you have to know two things: first, how to control your focus when you begin to hurt; second, how to neutralize the negative thinking and self-doubts that almost always tag along with the pain.
- Concentration. You must develop the ability to focus on what's important and block out everything else. Your mental skills in this area directly affect your ability to effectively handle pressure. In fact, the wrong focus before and during your races is the #1 cause of choking and psych-outs.
- Ability to deal with adversity, setbacks and failure. Winners build their success on their failures. They learn from their mistakes and then leave them behind. What kind of "reboundability" do you have?
- Mental preparation ahead of time. Do you know how to use imagery, mental rehearsal or visualization to maximize your chances of success? Did you know that mental rehearsal can significantly help you stay calm in the clutch and build your confidence?
If you want to systematically develop these mental toughness skills check out my mental toughness and peak performance books and workbooks. They're guaranteed to help you develop the mind of a champion!
Here's a story:
Ever hear the story of Jim Dreyer? In my book, he's what you might call a peak performance strongman. Jim had a near drowning when he was 3 years old, stayed away from the water until he was 12 when someone taught him to "doggy paddle." He did not progress beyond this level until three years ago when he started taking beginner's swim lessons in his 30's. In 1996 he got this strange idea in his head that he wanted to swim across Lake Michigan! Why? To prove he could do it and to raise money for the Big Brother & Big Sister programs.
How do you plan on swimming for 43.2 miles and 25 hours in sometimes dangerously cold water when you're quite recently terrified of the water? Jim got comfortable being uncomfortable! He moved towards his fears. He researched Lake Michigan's currents, weather, water temperatures and wave conditions to figure out exactly what he'd have to go up against. Then he began his "perfect practices." Knowing the exact conditions he would have to face, he began to simulate these in his training sessions. He swam 2-mile segments in 51-degree water. He did 28-mile loops in 6-foot waves. He stayed up for 30 consecutive hours and then went out in the middle of the night to swim several miles. It's not practice that makes perfect but "perfect" practice. Because Dreyer encountered some tough currents 10 miles from shore his planned 25 hour swim took 41 hours and 65 miles! 7 miles from shore the water temperature plummeted to 56 degrees. His eyes were swollen shut and he was mildly hallucinating yet he still kept going by reminding himself of why he was doing it and what was at stake for him. Dreyer clearly faced his demons and won. He met the physical and mental challenges and mastered them. How about you? Are you up to it? Is your mind and body in sync?
Are you in a performance slump? Do you get too nervous to race your best when it counts the most? Let me help you get your performance back on track with my One-on-One SKYPE consultation services. Call me today at (413) 549-1085 or email Goldberg@competitivedge.com.
As a Sports Performance Consultant, Dr. Alan Goldberg works with endurance sport athletes of all kinds helping them develop mental toughness, better handle competitive pressure and perform to their potential. He has worked with elite marathoners, world- class triathletes and open water swimmers. As a regular columnist for Fitness Swimmer and Swimming World, Dr. G writes on the subjects of peak performance training and mental toughness. He is the author of the revolutionary new book, "This Is Your Brain On Sports."