Triathletes are competitive by nature. Triathlon is the sport that starts as an opportunity to socialise and get healthy, usually changes once the race is on.
Some of us are racing to get on the podium. Some of us race to beat our mates. All of us are racing to beat our previous best time. Implicitly, we are also trying to beat our excuses and personal obstacles.
In Triathlon, there is always something to achieve, a victory to claim, a prize to obtain. Even if it is not as explicit as a medal, it can be a small or even a life-long goal. We are all built to do in Triathlon what we do in our lives, and that is conquer difficulties, break mental barriers and strive for that next level of success.
Now that lockdown is back in place and there is no group training, we can fall into the trap of losing our motivation. Except that we can’t! Some athletes will lose motivation for not having that big day to look forward to, or because they can’t be training with their mates. This doesn’t mean that we cannot keep following out triathlon training plan and keep pushing though. The change of the mental paradigm in training and racing, taking most events to a virtual setting or lowering the flow of people, only means that the stimuli related to these events has changed. This just means that there are new mental challenges for us to adapt to. The faster we identify and understand these new challenges, the better our mind and body will understand and overcome them by using new strategies.
Firstly we have to understand and accept the fact that the amount of people watching and cheering you on in a race will be less, or even none, over the next couple of months. Getting to terms with this aspect will help you understand that the emotional kick has to come directly from your own self rather than from external sources. We need to focus on developing an activation from our own mental strength rather than waiting for an external source to do it for us. Developing a new mental strategy will be crucial. Each athlete is going to be different in the way they approach this, but developing aspects such as personal mottos (Eg. “I am as fast as I wish” or “I am unstoppable”), self-confidence and resilience to recover when you feel that you are not feeling strong, will give you a huge lift.
Secondly, this is a new type of racing. This means that new strategies must be developed. The way we plan our hydration as well the expected help and the support across the course will now be mostly organised by each individual. Some might see this as a negative thing, but having ownership of these aspects will give the athlete a sense of control. More areas of racing are now the athletes own responsibility (course, hydration points, “recovery” zones, etc.). This is especially beneficial for young athletes, as it will make them more accountable for their own success.
Thirdly, concentration and mindfulness will be our best allies. In the past, if we felt that something was wrong during the race, we would expect help to be just around the corner, giving us something to look forward to. With these new lockdown rules, we will need to focus on close stimuli, things we can see and have close to us. There is nothing ahead different from what we have previously prepared, the only thing that will take us to the finish line is ourself. This feeling is empowering and will give us that sense of mental strength we want.
Lastly, our perception of time will be affected. This is connected with the above aspect, by making us be in the present moment instead of focusing on the future. Keeping us in the here and now will prevent us from becoming anxious about the finish line. The finish line will come, but only if we keep our mind in the present moment. Push now and celebrate later, don’t waste energy by thinking about what’s coming next.
The main takeaway from these new ideas is related to the importance placed on the athlete in this process. Athletes are now more important than ever in their own success. With the elimination of external stimuli, it is now the athletes’ chance to become mentally stronger than ever and claim that personal best time or distance. It is our chance to prove to ourselves what we are really made of.
Your own success in the future relies entirely on what you do here and now.