Jen Rulon

As a coach, I see athletes build their strength physically through swimming, biking, running, and lifting. How often do YOU as an athlete start making your mind for a better race?  I see a lot of athletes lose their strength from a mental standpoint.

For example, you may hear athletes talk about themselves and their training:

  • I suck at swimming. Will I make the cutoff in the Ironman?
  • This hurts.
  • I am scared to go hard.
  • My run is so slow; I am a turtle.
  • My race was TERRIBLE. Now I need to train more.

As an athlete, what do you think happens to athletes when they believe that? It’s true. They will NOT make the cutoff on the Ironman. Their run will be slow. Now, this athlete may overtrain since they don’t think they are “good” or “fast” enough. What happens from overtraining? Injury.

Have you ever done any mental imagery?

Mental imagery is when an athlete imagines themselves in an environment performing a particular activity using all of their senses: Sight, hearing, touch, and smell.

I will visualize my Ironman Triathlon & IM 70.3 Triathlon races all the time. For my “C” races, I will generally go have fun. :) Here is a little example of my mental imagery:

Swim: Swim, Strong! I place myself in the middle with the 1:10 group. I hook on to a couple of athletes’ feet, and I am feeling fast and smooth.

Bike: Bike Smart! Stay focused. Don’t look at the scenery. :) Feeling strong. Motivated and ready to dig deep, according to my power!

Run: Run like a Pac-Man. This is your strength, Rulon. Make it matter. All those people that biked past you, you will get them on the run. Oh, there is that one guy. Oh, passed another guy on the field. You WILL hold that pace the whole time.

Finish Line: I will visualize a specific time that I want at my Ironman. EVERY TIME, I come home on my run, and I hear, “Jennifer Rulon, YOU. ARE. AN. IRONMAN.” (Nailed it: Under 11 hours!)

Positive Self-Talk has got to be one of the hardest for a lot of us. We listen to so much in our mind daily. Positive and Negative. The goal for us is to replace the negative self-talk with positive self-talk.

So let’s change those comments above from negative to positive:

  • I have been swimming my $% off; I will be able to make that swim cutoff!
  • Want to get stronger? It’s going to hurt!
  • You are going hard because you want to learn to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
  • My run has improved so much that I am a cheetah!
  • That was my 2nd triathlon in my life. I did pretty darn good. I finished. I didn’t get hurt. I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face.

Having mental imagery and positive self-talk is crucial for ANY athlete but also long course triathletes! Why?  You will do a LOT of talking to your “inner” self during those 10-16 hours for a full Ironman and from 5 – 8 hours for a 70.3 Triathlon. If you start talking negatively to yourself in the middle of your race, you mentally may bring yourself down.

Let me give you a tip:

Mental imagery and positive self-talk start NOW.

I want you to change those negatives to a positive. I want you to visualize your race. You will be shocked by how STRONG you will be, not only physically but also mentally. Isn’t that what you want? You decide.


AUTHOR: Jen Rulon

I have been coaching triathletes, runners, and cyclists for over 21+ years; I received my Master's Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. And as you may have learned, there is more to life than swimming, biking, and running. It is a lifestyle, and I am here to help you cross that finish line with a smile, whether it is an Ironman Triathlon or the Ironman of Life. You can find my knowledge shared in Triathlete Magazine, Runners World, on the TEDx Stage, the Health and Wellness Expo in San Antonio, TX, Southwest Research Institute Human Performance Summit, Training Peaks Workshops, "Self Motivation Strategies for Women" on Amazon, Men's Journal Online, and the New York Times. I also practice what I preach—she's a 15x Ironman Triathlete who participated in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, on October 14, 2017.

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