Training Your Emotions

Breaking Through the pain barrier

One of the most important elements of training for a triathlon is often one of the most underestimated. This is the influence of emotions in our triathlon or Ironman training plan. The presence of such emotions is not only inevitable, but one of the most important aspects of our sport. Learning to recognise the main emotions that influence our lives and understanding how we can transform them is crucial. This process can help us predict if we have the correct mindset to get through a Triathlon program to race day. In this blog we will take a look at three of the main emotions that can affect our training.

The three most dominant emotions when it comes to structured raining are obsession, anger, and fear. These emotions can have both negative and positive effects on our body and mind. Every emotion that is created has a reason to be there, and an objective to achieve. Let us now take a look at how these 3 emotions can have a destructive and a constructive potential simultaneously.


Obsession is a thought or idea that enters someone’s mind on a continuous basis. This obsession is a persistent thought that drives us to act on something. Normally it has a direct connection with seeking relief from said thought. Learning to understand what causes the obsessive thought can be the base to transform such behaviour into something positive.

NEGATIVE: Obsession becomes addiction. The obsessive thought displays as the need to please or relieve an emotional need.  The addiction becomes a repetitive and dysfunctional behaviour, repeating itself over and over. An addiction doesn’t necessarily mean alcohol or drugs, it can be connected to videogames, gambling, relationships, work and much more.

POSITIVE: Obsession can become discipline. Once the person understands the cause of their obsession, they can redirect their pursuit of relief or pleasure by consciously choosing the object of their fixation. This means that obsession can become the continuous pursuit for achieving something big, something unique and spectacular. When directed into a triathlon prgram, athletes who understand the cause of their obsession and transform it into discipline usually become unstoppable. They become capable of swimming, cycling and running more than they previously have and tend to complete their program perfectly every week. This gives those athletes an extra advantage over others, ensuring that they are reaching their full potential with the hours they have to train in.


Anger is normally understood as being a displeasing or hostile feeling. The emotion of anger, however, goes well beyond this. Anger acts as a protective emotion to human beings. It is what triggers us into alert mode and allows us to perform physical and mental feats beyond our normal limits. Anger can become an explosive force or a steady, protective emotional and physical shield. The power of anger is one that can be as constructive as it can be destructive.

NEGATIVE: A misunderstood or unchecked anger often transforms to outbursts of rage. In these instances, the person transforms. Their normal behaviour is fully disrupted, and they explode in an episode of uncontrollable hostility. This happens after the person has felt the frustration or displeasing situation for too long without doing anything about it.

POSITIVE: Anger can also be harnessed to become determination. Determination then becomes an unstoppable force that tells you to keep going when your body is yelling to stop. It also an emotion that helps you dig deep and find that final push when you need it. Determination is the emotion that allows you reach your personal best when your legs are on fire and feel that they can’t go on anymore. For this to happen, you need to recognise that there is an emotion present and a need that must be met. Every athlete will remember when they needed that final push to complete the session or reach the finish line. If you think about it in detail, you’ll realise that it was the determination that got you there.


Fear, in the same way as anger, acts as a protective force to a human being. Fear is that unpleasant emotion caused by the potential of a danger, pain, or harm. Fear is there to warn us of a possible threat to our safety or existence.

NEGATIVE: Fear stops us from living. Having an uncontrolled fear stops us from doing what we want to do. It can transform into sadness over not living the life the individual wants to live it. If fear is allowed to build to an uncontrolled state, then every encounter can become scary regardless of how small or unlikely a danger there is. When fear takes control, the individual becomes uncomfortable with just the thought of potential danger, regardless of how likely it is to manifest.  

POSITIVE: Fear can also become prudence or caution. Within a training program, a personal project or a personal goal, there is a time when the body has done too much. In terms of Triathlon, caution comes into play when the athlete has pushed themselves in a session that goes beyond their normal limit. The thing that protects an athlete from striving too far it is that thought in the back of their head advising against pushing the body too hard or too far.

Finally, it is important to understand that these emotions don’t present on their own. Every emotion has a root and a cause. It is not a coincidence that certain people identify more easily with one emotion over another. This all has to do with those early childhood experiences and it a huge topic worthy of its own blog in the future. However, by identifying and understanding such experiences, it will be possible to see the cause of these emotions. It is when you reach this clarity of mind that you can start using emotions in a positive way instead of falling under their control.

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