8/4/15

Kona mindset



It's all getting a bit more real right now for me and Karel. 
The weekly training hours are increasing, we are always eating (seriously - always eating!), we need to restock our sport nutrition supply more quickly and sleep is much more of a priority. 

Can you believe it?
Only 67 days until the 2015 Ironman World Championship!!!!

Every morning I wake up with excitement to train my body for my 4th IM World Championship and my 10th Ironman. I love the journey that I get to share with my body in training for an Ironman. 
Every evening I go to bed and think about racing for 140.6 miles on the big island of Kona and staying mentally strong for all of those miles just to be able to run down Ali'i drive in order to cross the epic IM World Championship finish line. 

For the past few years, I have learned so much about mental training from my best friend Dr. G.(Gloria).

To many athletes, mental strength means being tough and pushing through. I agree that being mentally strong requires a tremendous amount of fortitude but I have learned from Gloria that mental toughness also requires being flexible, being present, accepting situations as they are and not getting anxious about things out of our control. 
So much of mental toughness is being within the moment and I think a lot of endurance athletes forget (or don't understand) that finding success in a workout or on race day is far less based on how hard you push when the going gets tough but instead, how willing you are to adjust how you push when the going gets tough. 

The other day I was reading an article in the September issue of Triathlete Magazine, written by Simon Marshall, Ph.D. The article was titled Boost your Mental Muscle. 

A lot of the article reminded me of things that I have learned from Gloria as she has helped me with so much in my life from career and education to my racing and training. She has helped me with coping with injuries, moving on from a bad race, having more self-belief and how to not mentally give up in training and in races. 

As a coach and endurance triathlete, I felt like this was a great article to share so here are a few important segments directly from the article that may benefit you in training and in racing:


Dealing with an injury. 
Refuse to become a passive patient by applying a "training mindset" to rehab. Dr. Marshall says that he is amazed at the number of triathletes who are so goal-oriented when it comes to their training but suddenly become unfocused and apathetic when dealing with an injury. 

If you are in denial about an injury ("it's not that bad.  I can train through it") what advice would you give to an another athlete in the same situation? 


A bad race. 
Letting go of the past needs to be learned because we are biologically wired to focus on thing that go wrong and gloss over stuff that goes right. This wiring helps our brain adjust future thinking and behavior. Verbalize your anger or frustration in order to connect the emotional outlet (verbal) with the thing that caused it (describe the event). Then determine if the cause was within your control or not within your control. Now go through "within-my-control" items and devise a strategy to reduce the likelihood of it happening again. Lastly, identify a positive from the race. It takes mental toughness to refuse to quit and still finish (even if slow). 

Needing more self-belief. 
The judgments we make about ourselves and our abilities can be crippling. If you constantly compare yourself to other athletes and conclude that losing makes you feel worthless as a person, it should be clear why this is damaging. Give yourself lots of opportunities to experience success. Use strategies to manage your inner critic, or the voice that is constantly reprimanding you for screwing up and not being good enough. 

Not feeling like a natural athlete. 
Talent is vastly overrated. Sporting history is littered with tales of the misfit toys who succeeded despite their lack of physical prowess, unorthodox technique or decidedly average lab data.
For the vast majority of us, our brains are biased to take personal credit for success and externalize reasons for failure. Ask a triathlete to explain the reasons for a poor performance: I forgot my nutrition, I dropped my chain, I got beaten up in the swim, a marshal sent me off course OR the opposite, blaming external factors like I'm not fit enough, good enough or talented enough. 
A hallmark of the mentally tough is the ability to correctly identify the reasons why things happen - and this takes training. 
Control the controllables. There will always be something that can derail the perfect plan but there are two factors entirely immune to all outside forces: your effort and your attitude.
Frame success:
1. Did I fully commit to it? Was I brave enough to give it everything I had? (Effort goal)
2. Was I grateful and positive? Did I take time to appreciate where I was and what I was doing? (Attitude goal). 

Mentally quitting during races
"Morison rule" - never quit on an uphill. Put off decisions about quitting until you get to the easy parts of the course. You'll be amazed by how effective this simple strategy is for staying in the game. 
If you have a tendency to mentally throw in the towel, there's a good chance you're trying to protect something. 
It takes guts to lay it all out there. Why? Because we risk the ultimate judgement if it still isn't enough. If I give it everything for everyone to see and I still fall short, then what? What does that say about my ability? What will others think?
Train yourself to recalibrate how you define success and failure. This doesn't mean that finish place or podiums are unimportant, just that during the race (or training session) you only focus on things that are always in your control - effort and attitude.  
Nobody really likes to hurt. It's the biochemical and psychological satisfaction that comes after you have "embraced the suck" that is so powerful. This is how we redraw boundaries of what's possible and build confidence. 
To learn how to cope with the suck is to force yourself to experience it:
1) Segmenting: Use distance or time markers to carve up the session so your head only has to cope with small periods of pain at a time.
2) Counting: Like Rain Man. Counting works because your brain finds it easy, there's an explicit sense of progress (numbers go up or down) and the repetition can help you get into a hypnotic state. 

To read the entire article, check out the September issue of Triathlete Magazine, pg 72-75.