Making a plan for calming your mind, grounding yourself, and using mantras and cue words will help you execute your best possible race when the pressure is on.
As a triathlete, you probably have your physical preparation down to a science. You’ve spent months or years dialing in your training, nutrition, and gear to optimise your performance on race day. But what about your mental preparation? Just like your body, your mind needs training too. Fail to prepare mentally and you prepare to fail.
Your mind can be your biggest asset or your worst enemy. Embrace the concept that you have the power to train your mind as you train your muscles. It simply takes observation, practice, and a desire to change what is not working. What are the messages you tell yourself? Are they positive and helpful or negative and detrimental? How can you change that message and change your performance?
Most of us go about our daily lives on autopilot, caught up in default mode thinking. If you were to examine the content of your thoughts on any given day, you’d likely find a lot of aimless mind chatter, worries, judgments, and other “mental junk” that doesn’t serve you. This untamed mind will likely show up on race day unless you take conscious steps to shift gears. The mind you take to the start line is the mind that will carry you across the finish line.
To set yourself up for your best possible race execution, create a mental checklist to use in training and again leading up to race day. Here are some key elements to include:
Regular visualisation using calm mental and physical imagery to recreate what you want to feel on race day. Envision the entire race experience from start to finish. Make this a daily practice.
Mind calming. Spend 10-15 minutes before the race in quiet meditation or doing breathwork to settle your mind and nerves.
Grounding. Take a minute to connect to your senses – notice sights, sounds, and physical sensations that anchor you in the present moment.
Mantras. Pick one or two short phrases like “Relax and flow” or “Steady pace” to repeat to yourself during challenging moments.
Cue words. Choose simple one-word cues like “Smooth”, “Quick feet”, and “Strong” to direct your focus back to proper technique when your mind starts to drift.
The mental checklist provides a game plan to fall back on when the pressure and fatigue of race day threaten to hijack your thinking brain. By diligently following your checklist, you will step up to the starting line mentally rehearsed and ready to execute your best possible race. Those small mental preparation steps make a big difference in how smoothly and effectively you are able to handle everything that comes your way over the course of the race. Do the mental work well in advance and trust it to carry you through.
Stuart has competed in triathlons from Sprint to Ironman distance. As a qualified Triathlon Australia, Australian Athletics Run Coach, and a certified Ironman coach, he is aware of the importance of balancing training with lifestyle, thus complementing other important aspects of an athlete’s life (family, work, study commitments, etc.).
Contact Stuart at firstname.lastname@example.org
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