Google translations (NOT 100% accurate).

mental toughness

Mental toughness will help you to maintain the focus and determination to complete a triathlon despite difficulty, distance or consequences. You won't quit anymore.

With mental toughness, you rely on all of your strengths and abilities. You acknowledge your weaknesses but push through every aspect to become a better triathlete. You will stay relaxed at all times and will focus only on what you can control in each moment. You will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.

Discipline, toughness, stubbornness, and perseverance all have relevance to everything we do. However, being mentally tough means that no matter how brutal the circumstances are, you’re able to perform to the best of your skills and talents, with a good time, high place, or even a win.

Triathlon is designed to test mental toughness. At its core, it is about going the distance and overcoming every conceivable obstacle in your way. Many triathletes master the first part of the definition of mental toughness—being able to cope with huge workloads and exacting demands—and have a good handle on hard training and physical pain.

Triathletes are able to reframe their minds and create positive mental energy. However, when the heat of the moment arrives during the actual race, some triathletes fall short when mental toughness is needed, and perform poorly because they have no conscious control over the decisions they make on pacing, race strategy, tactics, and nutrition.


It's All in Your Head

The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us but those who win battles we never see them fight.

Mental toughness is what separates you from the merely good. The key to mental toughness is applying consistently the traits of self motivation, positive attitude, emotional self control, calmness under pressure, and being energetic and ready for the competition.

Focus

Triathletes need to mentally prepare themselves before a race, as having the right attitude is one of the secrets to triathlon success. A triathlon is a long race that requires a lot of focus. Triathlon is designed to test mental toughness, and it's about going the distance and overcoming every conceivable obstacle in your way.

Strong Mindset

Many athletes wrongly assume that the mental aspect of performance is innate and unchangeable. In reality, systematic mental training can have a similar impact on performance as physical workouts do. Choosing your thoughts and attitudes can make or break your race experience and result. The more you practice, the more you strengthen your mind and attitude.

Motivation

Winners have it, everyone else wants it. Motivation, that critical ingredient to success both in and out of sports. It's the one element that will allow you to get back up after repeated failures and still achieve your goals. So figure out what you want, power through the pain period, and start being who you want to be.

Self-Belief

Self-belief is developed from the inside. Is your power base of energy that you were born with. Is the mark of a champion. Is that secret ingredient that all great triathletes seem to possess, regardless of what level they compete at. It can motivate you to attempt and accomplish the impossible.



Focus

Many triathletes spend months physically preparing for race day but give little to no thought about the focus preparation required for a triathlon.

Our sport includes all three: swim, bike, and run. Many athletes and some coaches see triathlon as three separate sports: Swim + Bike + Run. However, triathlon is one sport and should be seen as swimbikerun, in which every sport interferes or influences the others. When training for triathlon, athletes usually make the mistake of seeing it as 3 different sports.

Triathletes think that they should train for swimming like swimmers, bike like cyclists and run like runners. Athletes should not seek individual sports' personal records but instead, an overall faster result. Saving energy on the swim, reducing aerobic taxing and neuromuscular firing on the bike and teaching your body how to run on fatigued legs on tight muscles and reduced range of motion is triathlon!

Prime focus involves focusing only on performance-relevant cues in your attentional field. In other words, only focusing on cues that help you to perform your best. For triathletes, performance-relevant cues can include technique, tactics, your opponent, and time remaining. Prime focus gives you the ability to adjust your focus internally and externally as needed during the course of a competition.

Poor focus, in contrast, involves focusing on performance-irrelevant cues in your attentional field. That is, focusing on cues that will hurt your performance. There are two types of harmful cues. Interfering cues are those that will directly hurt your performance such as negative thoughts, anxiety, and concern over who your next opponent will be if you win. Irrelevant cues are those that simply distract you from an effective focus including what you'll have for dinner tonight or the project that you must finish by tomorrow.


Strong Mindset

The great thing about strong mindset is that you are not born with it. You don’t have to learn it at a young age. A strong mindset comes simply from the decision you make. You can start today and reach levels of your training, competition, and success that you never thought possible. Outstanding athletic prowess will take someone so far. Without a strong mindset you will not reach your full potential.

Everyone has the ability to build mental strength. Similar to building physical strength, developing mental muscle requires dedication and hard work. With practice, you'll gain an increased ability to regulate your thoughts, control your emotions, and behave productively despite your circumstances. It's impossible to feel mentally strong when you're engaging in self-destructive behaviors that sabotage your best efforts.

Even with the months of physical preparation leading into an Ironman© triathlon, success often comes down to what is happening in your head. A strong mind can lead a strong body to amazing results. If you’re willing to put in the physical time and suffering, take the time to sharpen your mental arsenal as well. Here are some key mental skills to hone along with your physical training.

Excitement is a positive type of stress that can still affect your body and mind in ways that aren’t optimal. How much activation you need depends on the individual and on the sport. If you’re so excited that you’re finding it hard to concentrate, then you may have passed your peak performance point. In order to assess how much excitement, or how much mental and physical activation are optimal for you, you would need to go back and reflect on all of your past competitions. When you think about your past races, you can try to assess how you were feeling before your race and determine how that factored into your performance. Thinking specifically about your best and worst races, you can see if there was a difference between how excited you were feeling before the race and determine how much is optimal for you. Once you know where you need to be, you can work on the tools to either calm yourself down or pump yourself up to get into your optimal state.

If you’re feeling unmotivated, irritable, angry, sad, or bored, or you hit a relatively small roadblock and fantasize about quitting your sport, these are possible signs of mental burnout. The most effective approach is to prevent this from happening. You need to be able to recognize your early signs of mental burnout and address it at that moment—be proactive instead of reactive. Take time off, find a new workout buddy, cross-train, reconnect with your goals, and remember what you love about your sport—these are all ways to help you get back on the path of feeling motivated and re-energized. It can also be good to reflect on the past several seasons to determine if there are any patterns to your mental burnout. See if your motivation tends to dip around the same time during each season so you can prepare for that in your training plan.


Motivation

Motivation is what passion needs in order to give birth to success. Being passionate about something we just need that single push, that small encouragement. And once we are motivated, we become even more passionate, engage ourselves in action, thus making success inevitable.

It's no wonder triathletes are so well-respected: It can be hard enough for potential athletes to muster the motivation to master one sport, let alone three. And since triathletes must train for all three events in order to be successful competitors, that means a lot of time dedicated to preparation.

Often, the fact that triathlons do force athletes to prepare for multiple sports makes it easier for them to stay motivated. Rather than simply running or cycling every single day, triathletes split their efforts three ways. They're still logging hours of workouts to get into top physical shape, but they're doing it a lot less monotonously. Plus, when you consider athletes like marathon runners occasionally swap in sprints for distance running to push their bodies to cross into new physical frontiers, it makes sense from a workout perspective to mix things up. Tired of cycling? Take a few laps in the pool so leg muscles become accustomed to that sort of exertion as well. Running route getting old? Blaze a new trail through the woods and go easier on the pups.

Other ways to stay motivated include setting goals and designating rewards for reaching them. A triathlete can set up a schedule of increasingly competitive workouts and training exercises, with customizable rewards for each midway goal that's met. Maybe reaching a new level of preparedness means a fancy pair of running shoes or a better-quality bike, although it could just as easily be as simple as a gold star marking the day's success.

Music is a great motivator, too. Triathletes can load an MP3 player with lots of tunes that pump them up and encourage them when they hit the wall. Encouraging music also helps build confidence and psyche up the athlete before the big event.


Self-Belief

Self-belief is all about the word ‘can’. When a triathlete believes in himself or herself, they know they can perform well. Realistically, no one can ever know for sure that they will perform well and be successful, but that is not what self-belief is about. Self-belief is about knowing that they can be successful.

When someone knows that they can perform well, it gives them something extra. Make no mistake, self-belief is powerful but it needs to be built on solid facts about yourself as an athlete. Self-belief is powerful but it’s not magic. Self-belief has power because it allows triathletes to access all of their ability. If the training’s not done, if the skills aren’t there, then neither will the performance, but self-belief allows triathletes to use that in training and all of their skills.

The opposite of self-belief, and a triathlete’s worst enemy, is self-doubt. Self-doubt is that little voice in your head that says you can’t do something. Self-doubt is very common and is a normal part of human nature. Normal or not, it doesn’t help us achieve our goals, especially in triathlon. So, how do we get past self-doubt and start to believe? Like many things in the area of mental performance, there are some reasonably simple skills and tools that can be used to build self-belief. One part of the answer to building self-belief comes from looking at how self-doubt develops.

Self-doubt develops and is strengthened over time by consistent negative thoughts. All the doubts, all the questions, and all the negativity that grow self-doubt come from repetition and consistency. So part of the answer to building self-belief comes from the same concept. Triathletes need to have consistent and repeated positive thoughts.

A triathlete understanding their strengths is crucial for developing self-belief. When a triathlete knows they have certain strengths that they can rely on during racing it helps them to see how they can perform well and get the job done.

Triathletes also build self-belief through listening to and taking on board positive feedback from others. When other people reinforce that you are good at what you do it helps to believe that you can perform well and be successful. When people (coaches, training partners, competitors, media, etc.) offer you positive feedback, it’s important to take it on and use it to fuel your self-belief. (Written by Matt Ahlberg)


Boost your Mental Toughness

By T.J. Murphy
Make the commitment.
  • In beginning to work with an athlete, Wilder’s initial consultations involve a meeting where goals are set. “We set short-term goals and long-term goals,” Wilder says. In the discussion, she helps the athlete distinguish between what she calls process goals versus outcome goals—the former concentrating on the weekly training output and the latter on what the athlete hopes to come away with at the end of the program. “For example, the outcome might be that at the finish they improve their PR at a certain race distance by a certain amount.” Wilder has the athlete write this down on an index card, which goes into a safe in her office. “You can do the same at home with a shoe box. The idea is to commit to the goal and put it away; allay any doubts that might creep into the mind and persuade you to alter the goal.” Then, Wilder says, with the decision on the outcome said and done, you will be more apt to simply pour all of your mental energy into training toward your goal and less tempted to alter the plan due to fear.

  • Build confidence with difficult workouts.
  • According to Kabush, psychological strength gets manufactured with challenging bouts of training. “We need to do some workouts that scare us,” she says. What this means is that key workouts need to be planned and executed—workouts more demanding than the race. Pre-race fear will be replaced with a steely resolve. “These are the confidence builders,” says Kabush. “You’ll be able to commit to finishing at whatever cost.”

  • Know the purpose of each workout.
  • In addition to these tough key workouts, you’ll boost your confidence by knowing that all training was high-quality. Kabush says that by understanding the specific goal of each workout, an athlete will be less apt to cut corners or squander away a training period. “By understanding what it is you’re out to accomplish at a swim workout, for example, you’ll be less likely to just half-heartedly swim for 30 minutes as opposed to getting in a quality one-hour interval workout.”

  • Make the race a research project.
  • Wilder counsels her athletes to consider mental resources, suggesting athletes pay special attention to mastering how you get organized in the days and hours before the race start to avoid any waste. “You want your pre-race routines to flow like clockwork,” she explains. “The routines help prevent frittering away energy. To prepare these routines, do as much homework as you can before the big event. Approach this like you would a researcher. Read everything you can about it and interview those who have raced it before. Write this all down.” The objective is to understand as much as you possibly can about the event beforehand so that pre-race stress and anxiety are kept to a minimum and you’ll “conserve the maximum amount of mental resources for the effort of the race.” If the race is at a location you’ve never visited before, these principles become all the more invaluable—know where you’ll shop for food, eat your meals, and when and where you have to be for all the various pre-race briefings and equipment check-ins.

  • Perform pre-race simulations.
  • In doing your pre-race research, identify aspects of the race that may be particularly distressing and do your best to simulate the situation in training. For example, consider a chaotic mass swim start like at the Hawaii Ironman. “The panic of a mass swim start is hard to prepare for,” Kabush says. This is where a group workout at the pool could be arranged to try to simulate the general rampage of the first minutes of the swim. “In this workout you’d practice getting clobbered and scratched and work on the basics, like continuing to breathe and getting into a rhythm. It’s like studying for a big exam. You want to be so prepared that when the questions come, you’ll respond automatically.”

  • Focus on what can be controlled.
  • Also in the interest of conserving mental energy, Wilder advises athletes to monitor their thoughts and restrict thinking to those things that can be controlled. “You can’t control the weather,” she says as an example, “so it’s of no value to burn energy worrying about it.” Inherent within this strategy is centering thoughts on the daily tasks of completing workouts and checking off the extras like a good diet, getting proper sleep and managing workout recovery—in effect, controlling what can be controlled.

  • Don’t race unprepared.
  • In discussing the importance of building confidence and mental toughness over the long haul, Wilder discourages athletes from starting a race if for some reason the training has been insufficient. If injury, illness or the pull of life commitments have left you short of the fitness level demanded by the race, don’t do it. “If you don’t have confidence in your ability, go back and work on it. Go back to preparing the way you should.” To do otherwise, Wilder says, can be a form of self-sabotage.

  • When racing, think through the tough patches.
  • When the physical stresses of an arduous race begin to sour your mood, be prepared, Wilder says. Deal with whatever nutrition or equipment needs might help you retain a level of comfort, but also be ready with psychological aids. “I teach my athletes to memorize three or four positive affirmations,” she says. When dark thoughts begin to enter the picture, call up the affirmations and work your way through the bad spell with positive images that root you in the moment. “Thinking about the outcome can zap you of your energy. Rather, being in the moment and remembering how much you love having the freedom to be on your bike or to be out there running can help you recapture a good feeling.”

  • Conduct a thorough post-race analysis.
  • After the goal event, Wilder has her athletes study the experience whether the race was a success or a disappointment. “I want them to look at it from a standpoint of process rather than outcome. Really break down everything that happened. Make it a complete learning experience to take in to your next goal.” Wilder suggests that what might be termed failures can in fact be an important part of developing mental toughness. “Battling back from a disappointment is a critical part of building mental toughness. This is how we build resilience.”


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