How do football players prepare for their biggest event of the year such as the Super Bowl? How do YOU prepare for your biggest race of the year? What is the key ingredient to nailing it on the day that really counts?
Answer: MENTAL STRENGTH
As a coach, I see athletes build their strength physically through swimming, biking, running, and lifting. How often do YOU as an athlete start building your mind for a better race?
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 think that? It’s true. They will NOT make the cutoff on the Ironman. Their run will be slow. 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 or positive self-talk?
Mental imagery is when an athlete imagines themselves in an environment performing a certain activity using all of their senses: Sight, hearing, touch, and smell.
I will visualize my Ironman and 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: 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: Stay focused. Don’t look at the scenery. :) Feeling strong. Motivated and ready to dig deep, according to my power!
- Run: 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 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.” (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 minds on a daily basis. 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 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 may bring yourself down mentally.
Let me give you a tip: Mental imagery and positive self-talk start NOW.
I want you to change those negatives to positives. 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.