Training for a long course triathlon is about more than just swimming, biking, and running for miles on end. There is an undeniable mental component. When you are pushing that hard, for that long, your body will reach a point where it wants to give up. Your muscles will scream at you to stop, and if you listen to that little voice, you may just give in. If you stop, you won’t start again. I have had some challenging races, from racing before I had healed from an injury, to being unprepared for a punishing course. I have had plenty of moments in a race when every muscle fiber in my being has screamed at me to stop, but to date I have never had a DNF. I have hobbled over the finish line with patellar femoral syndrome rearing its ugly head. I once had to run a mile back into T1, bear foot, carrying my bike, because I hadn’t packed for a flat. I changed that tire and got back out on the course. During my first Half Ironman my quads began to seize on the final hill climb of the bike course, but I didn’t back off, I kept pushing until I reached the finish line. What is it that keeps you moving forward when everything is telling you to stop? It is your mind, taking control of your body, and deciding “We can do this.” It takes training, just like anything else. Here are five ways to get mentally tough and train your brain for race day.Are you Mentally Tough? How to train your brain for race day #triathlete Click To Tweet
There is no other workout in your training schedule that more closely resembles racing than your long bike and run. Your long runs and rides are the most important workout of the week, you cannot skip them. This isn’t just about physically putting the miles on your legs, or developing new mitochondria to power your muscles, this is about training your brain to stay focused on moving forward. If you are tackling a new distance for the first time you may notice the effects that training long has on your mind. You may feel your mind start to wander, you may begin to feel board, you may even start an inner monologue telling yourself “That’s far enough for today,” when there are still miles to be completed. These sessions are an opportunity to train your brain. Stay focused on the task at hand. Hone in on one aspect of your technique. A smooth pedal stroke on the bike or a mid-foot strike on the run. Don’t let your mind wander, or worse, let that little voice talk you out of finishing your workout. Stay present and work on honing your craft. Having this habit will pay off big come race day.
Indoor Training Sessions
While racking the bike on your trainer and riding in your living room may sound like torture, it is excellent training for your brain. Just like your long rides you are given the opportunity to focus on your form and to tough out a workout that would be so easy to quit. You are already home! The couch is right there! Do you really need to finish that last 15 minutes! The answer is yes!
Check out Indoor Biking Basics to make the most of your indoor sessions
Chances are you have heard about the benefits of visualization in professional sports. But visualization isn’t just for the guys making the big bucks! Visualization is a great way to prime your brain for race day. Each night leading up to the big race visualize how you plan the race to go. From the moment before the gun goes off, through each transition, and leg of the race all the way up until you cross the finish line. Take time to picture your perfect race ahead of time and you are more likely to achieve the same results come race day. This is especially important if you are new to triathlon. Really focus on every little detail, pay special attention to new skills like transitions. Taking the time to think through your big day will help everything go smoothly once the start gun sounds.
Find your mantra, when you are deep inside the pain cave having a mantra to turn to will save your life. Mantras are short phrases that help remind you of what you are working for. They re-energize you, and help you keep pushing forward when the going gets tough. Finding the right mantra for you is a personal journey, so start working on it now. Your long training sessions are an excellent time to figure out what works for you, and what doesn’t. My personal favorite is “Pain is only temporary, glory lasts forever,” I also use a “drop the hammer,” to get me up those gnarly hills on the bike, and “Just keep swimming,” to keep my flow during the swim. A mantra can be anything that inspires you and brings your focus back to the task at hand. Try out a few and keep what works.
It is possible that the reason I have never quite a race because I have told myself a thousand times that there is no DNF. Giving up is not an option, once you take that off the table there is nothing left to do but to keep moving forward. Our inner dialogue is paramount to race day success! We talk to ourselves all day long, and guess what, your brain is listening. So make sure that you are telling it the right scripts. If you want to finish your first ironman then you better wake up every day and tell yourself “I got this!” “I am going to be an ironman.” It is important never to let self-doubt creep in, even before the race. Tell yourself you are going to finish strong, tell yourself that you are going to crush your goals, say it enough times and your brain will have no choice but to listen.
Before you get any crazy ideas I am not saying you can will yourself through a long course race, it takes hours upon hours of showing up and doing the training necessary to conquer 70.3 miles , or more. What I am saying is that you can undermine all that training by not bringing your mental A game.
Ready to take on a new challenge? Check out to How To Create Your Triathlon Training Calendar
What do you fall back on? How do you get through a tough race?
Looking for some more #Fitsperation? Check out the Fitness Friday link up with Jill Conyers