Triathlon has the great quality of being accessible to so many people regardless of age, gender or ability. Whether you are racing in your age group at the full distance or you are doing your first Fun Tri, there is a place for you to call home.
For every athlete, each race comes with its own mental challenges. Race day can be as stressful as it is exciting due to the amount of variables that triathlon can throw up. We know how to prepare our bodies through proper training, stretching and activation exercises. Getting mentally ready, however, is a skill that will allow any athlete to take their racing to the next level.
Behavioural and Performance Counsellor Nestor Rivera shares some strategies to get mentally ready for your next race. Taking the time to prepare mentally will give you that added advantage when racing.
- Control what you can control, and learn to accept the uncontrollable.
This first thing is the challenge of accepting what is happening around you. Get on top of things that can make your life easier on race day. Examples of this include organising your clothes in advance, make sure you have your hydration bottles ready, writing a checklist a few days prior to the event to make sure you have everything that you’ll need. When the race approaches, activate your body through breathing exercises, neuromuscular activation and proper stretching.
It is also important to understand that you can’t control some aspects of the race and that is ok. Elements like the weather, water quality and behaviour, number of athletes around you, etc. are things that are out of your control. These stressors need to be considered, but should then be put out of your mind.
Knowing when and where to where to put your attention will make it easier for you to focus on the right things.
- Understand and use your strengths.
Your strengths are more varied than what you might think. Knowing what you can do well might represent the difference between a PB and mentally crashing on race day. Your strengths are more than being a strong swimmer, a fast cyclist or a resistant runner. They can include things like being organised, having passion for the sport, loving competition. Creating a strategy around who you are as a person and as a human being can unleash abilities even unbeknown to your own self.
Getting “in the zone” is not just a state of optimal physical performance, it is also a mental state.
- Recognise yourself as a Triathlete.
To some people this step might be obvious, to some others it is much harder to achieve. Seeing yourself as triathlete makes a big difference in the way you engage the race. If you see yourself as a person who just happens to be there in the water, rides “slow” and “barely” runs, will set your body into doing exactly that, racing just to get to the finish line. But if you see yourself as a fantastic swimmer, a formidable cyclist and an unstoppable runner, your body will respond by facing the challenge in a much more efficient way and will deliver a better result.
- Cheer other people!!
Cheering other people will trigger certain neurotransmitters in your body related to happiness and physical endurance alike. By motivating others, especially at Davey Black’s Ireland and Melbourne Triathlon Club, inviting them to push harder or just positively yelling to support another athlete, you are initiating the production of serotonin, which has a direct role in happiness, satisfaction and optimism.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter highly involved in the regulation of pain. By having high levels of serotonin, your body will perceive the pain related to the physical effort as much lower, and you will be able to push much harder. A personal best can be obtained with a smile.
A happy athlete is a fast athlete.
Remember that in the end, you are the master of your own destiny and it is in you enjoying every single race, regardless of the result. Seeing the good in the bad and getting to value every good and bad thing that happens during a Triathlon will be the difference between a memorable day and a race to forget.