Definition of STRENGTH: The quality or state of being strong: Capacity for exertion or endurance. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/strength)
If you have been following me for a while, you probably realize how much I LOVE STRENGTH and what it does for the human body. As a coach, when I have given my athletes a strength program specific for triathletes, I have seen such AMAZING results. I see that they have better body awareness. I see fewer injuries. I see CONFIDENCE with these athletes that takes them to a different level.
So, we see athletes build their strength physically through swimming, biking, running, and lifting. How often do we see athletes build strength MENTALLY?
As a coach, I think 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?”
- “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 actually think 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 when you overtrain? Injury.
Over the last month, I started working with a Mental Skills Trainer, Nate Last from Mental Grit Consulting. What I loved talking to Nate was that I was applying a lot of these skills and tasks to my racing but I wasn’t going into my training with it, which has been such great feedback for me, as a coach AND as an athlete.
After chatting with Nate, taking Sport Psychology classes and learning more about the mental side of training, I have to ask you a question:
Have you ever practiced any mental imagery or positive self talk?
Let’s talk about what mental imagery first. Mental imagery is when an athlete imagines themselves using all of their senses (sight, hearing, touch, and smell), in an environment performing a certain activity.
I visualize my Ironman and Ironman 70.3 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. I am feeling fast and smooth. I focus on my form and make sure I am using my traps to pull and lower the head for the breathe.
- Bike: Bike SOLID. Don’t look at the scenery :) Feel strong, motivated, and ready to dig deep, according to my power! Don’t over bike!
- Run: Run like a PacMan! This is your strength, Rulon. Make it matter. All those people who bike past you, you’ll get them on the run. Oh, there is that one guy. Oh, passed another guy on the run. You WILL hold that pace the whole time.
- Finish Line: I will visualize a certain time that I want at my Ironman. EVERY TIME, I come home on my run and I hear, “Jennifer Rulon, YOU. ARE. AN. IRONMAN.” (Ironman Mont Tremblant. Wanted to go under 11 hours…nailed it: 10:59:31 💥)
Next is the Positive Self-Talk. Positive Self-Talk has got to be one of the hardest skills for a lot of us. We listen to so much in our mind on a daily basis, both positive and negative. Look at the examples from above. Are any of those comments positive? No. The goal for us is to replace the negative self-talk with positive self-talk.
So let’s change those comments from above from negative to positive:
- “I have been swimming my $% off; I will be able to make that swim cutoff!”
- “My run has improved so much that I am a cheetah!”
- “Ya know, that was my 2nd triathlon in my life, and 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 an athlete, especially an Ironman athlete. Why? You will do a LOT of talking to your “inner” self during 10-16 hours. If you start talking negatively to yourself in the middle of your Ironman 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 extremely surprised by how STRONG you will be not only physically but also mentally. Isn’t that what you want? You decide.
This past summer, I have been doing Facebook Lives, “Life Lessons of an Athlete,” please check them out HERE! This is the last week of them but you can jump on blog, as I have re-posted them for you!