As we head back into Tri season we need to talk about the sometimes dreaded word: TRAINING. But training need not be something to dread, but rather something to enjoy. Now if you’re thinking “I don’t think pain and torture are fun!”, well, you’re in luck. Why? Because today we’re going to look at a very important, albeit often overlooked, part of the training that makes all the pain and “torture” not so painful and torturous. Of course, I am talking about mental training. The mindset necessary to train and compete. You see, everything we do starts in the mind.
Before you embarked on the challenge of a triathlon, whether this is your first or your fiftieth, the idea to race started in your mind. At some point, you decided in your mind that “hey, I think this looks like fun and I want to do it.” This is the easy part.
It’s after that decision to race where the real work begins. Now you have to train, both physically AND mentally. Many racers will say that metal preparation is more important than physical training, and I’d have to agree.
So just what IS mental training and how do you go about doing it? Many people are surprised to find out that it’s more than just pushing yourself physically. That is part of it, but mental training goes further. It all begins with visualization.
Having an active imagination can come in handy for this training, but don’t worry if you don’t have one. It’s not essential. Just remember to take time each day to practice it and before long, it will be a natural as breathing. To begin, you want to visualize yourself racing.
- Begin by imagining yourself standing on the beach with the other racers getting ready to dive in. What sounds do you hear? What does the sand feel like under your bare feet, or the air against your body? Are waves crashing against the beach? What does that sound like?
- Now you’re in the water. It’s warmer than the cold, early morning air you were just standing in. You are kicking…hard, and turning your arms over quickly. You are gliding through the water like a knife through warm butter. Soon the pack is behind you as you round the first buoy. What does the water feel like against your skin? Can you feel someone coming up on you? How does the dark abyss of the water make you feel?
- Before you know it, you’re back on the beach and heading into T1. You change and jump on your bike and head off on down the course. Visualize yourself cruising along the course at a fast but comfortable speed. How does the wind blowing past you feel in the now warmer morning sun? As you head up that first hill, what do your legs feel like as you pedal slower and harder with each pedal? Do you stand up? Is this a relief for you? How do you feel when you finally reach the top of that hill and realize it’s all downhill? Before long you head into T2. Then you’re off and running.
- You are running smoothly around the course. People pass you and you pass others. High fives are exchanged along the way with some “Way to GO!” and “You Got This” helping to fuel you on. How do your legs feeling now? What the course feel like under your feet? Are you wearing shoes? And what about the finish line? Don’t forget to visualize yourself crossing that line.
- Imagine that perfect race where everything goes exactly as planned and you win the race. Then, visualize potential challenges that can arise and how you’ll calmly handle and overcome them.
What you talk to yourself really does matter. Something that I learned long ago was that believing equals receiving. In other words, what you believe (visualize) will come to pass in the physical world. SO make sure you are visualizing positive.
In the end, you should be practicing these visualization skills daily. Remember that it takes more than just physical training for you to have a successful race. With the proper mental training, visualization and focus you can and will not only compete in a triathlon but enjoy the experience even more than the finish.
Happy training and happy racing to you. I hope to see you out on the race field this season.