Ask the Coach: Take control of your thought patterns
When you are out training, it is empowering to start becoming aware of your thought patterns. Obviously the way we think and the things we focus on in practice become habitual over time, and that place we regularly visit in our mind and spirit become an automatic response to stress and stimuli on race day.
It’s good to think about positive moments in life when you are solely focused on one thing. Consider young love- a couple that is so engrossed in each other that there aren’t any conflicting “worry” thoughts hovering around in the back ground, clouding their experience: “how will I make rent this month; will I pass chemistry this term; will my boss ream me out at work today?” They are in a state of “flow” with each other. They are immersed in the act of just being present and together.
Now think about training and racing.
Most people who do triathlon love some aspect of training for sport. It might be the endorphins from a speed set in the pool, or the fluid rhythm of a base run. Feelings on a positive day usually range from calm to uplifted or excited. Interestingly, we can often become completely immersed in a negative, energy sapping thoughts as well. “This is hard; my legs hurt; I feel heavy; how much further; I don’t like this”… You can dwell on these types of thoughts for long periods of time. In Ironman, these types of thoughts can be deal breakers. One of the biggest challenges of the Ironman is that it is just such a long time to think out there.
The next time you find yourself immersed in a negative thought pattern, consider past experiences in sport or life when you felt mentally light. Revisit some of your positive mental sessions. I will bet that your mind was clear that day, and for one reason or another you decided that day you were going to have a positive, on-task experience out there. Take ownership of that mental mindset. It’s a potential tool in your tool kit you can practice, hone and use on race day.
Which thought patterns have you created? It is a positive process of movement and mental lightness and clarity? Or is it a personal battle against gravity, oxygen debt, and pain? You decide.
And About Pressure
Here’s something to consider: pressure is manufactured! Pressure isn’t something that happens to us – it is simply how we perceive the situation we are in. Athletes need to learn this, because once they understand that pressure is something they create, then they also understand that pressure is therefore something they can control. By controlling their responses to different situations, athletes learn to take adversity in stride.
Here are some tips for controlling responses to pressure:
Pressure only exists if you are concerned about the outcome. Train your mind to stay in the present and let the outcome take care of itself.
Ensure you have good training preparation leading up to competition.
Learn to practice at the same level you compete at.
Practice focusing on the right thing at the right time, regardless of what is going on around you.
Never, ever give in – maintain commitment and desire in the face of adversity.
Often athletes rush things on race morning when they are under pressure. It’s better to slow down and get it right than to rush it and make an error.
Some people benefit from relaxation exercises prior to competing.
Practice thinking positively in all situations during training and racing.
Share how you feel with others – talking about how you feel can help you to deal with it.
Strive for excellence, not perfection. It is okay to make mistakes under pressure, just as it is alright to make mistakes in training – so long as you recover well and learn from them.
Focus on technique or strategy.
Pay attention to the things you have practiced – they are familiar so they won’t feel pressured.
It’s not about your feelings, it’s about your actions. Take the focus off of how you feel, by putting your focus onto what you will do.
Identify the actions/skills that suffer most when you are in a pressure situation and put extra time into practicing those skills.
Maintain your belief in yourself, no matter what the situation.
LifeSport head coach Lance Watson has coached a number of Olympians, Ironman and Age Group champions. Lance and the coaches at LifeSport enjoy working with athletes of all ages and abilities. Contact us for coaching enquiries or visit us atwww.LifeSportCoaching.com