This does not have to just relate to training for Triathlon, in many areas of work rest and play, life does not always go quite as you want it, and this can leave us feeling negative for one reason or another. However, I am going to focus on Triathlon here, and our mind set towards training and racing.
Many times as a coach have I heard athletes say to me, they had a terrible race, everything went wrong, or I am running, swimming biking, slower than I was last week, its all going pear shaped! Unfortunately this can be self destructive and can lead to a spiral of poor performance in training and racing, as the athletes mind set becomes defeatest before they have even started the race, or jumped on the bike. In an ideal world every session would be a pb and we drift through races without a hitch at all, but this is to be honest somewhat unrealistic. Therefore, lets see if we can break it down a bit.
Firstly, training. Athletes will have their training plan, a progressive set of sessions designed to make the athlete stronger, fitter, faster, to achieve those outcome race specific goals set out for the next season. Alongside these goals should be specific process goals, (which could link to sleep, nutrition, work or family, which all have an impact on performance). However, it is unrealistic for any of us to think that it is as simple as swim bike run. It isnt. We all have different stresses and strains that will impact our physical and mental wellbeing and this of course will also have an impact on our training and racing. It is really important that as athletes you remember this, you keep things in perspective, and sometimes perhaps re evaluate sessions that you think were terrible in a different light. Were they really? Maybe you were a few seconds off your normal 100m repping time, but actually, what had you done before hand? How tired were you? What stress did you carry into the pool with you? Then look at the session again. And ask yourself, what positives can you take from the session? It could be simply that despite being tired, mentally drained, you got in, you completed the session, which means its another session in the bag, maintaining that consistency, and actually, helped you to forget the stresses of the day. Brilliant! Job done. Then sleep, refocus, and move forward to the next session. Do not if you can, carry the negativity into the next sessions, but the positive points.
Also, remember that the training you are doing is built on gradual overload. You will have sessions built in, that are designed to be completed on slightly fatigued legs, after a few hard sessions. This is about building your physical and mental endurance, not about getting your best minute miling! Did you maintain form on tired legs, did you remember to fuel, and did you nail the session when before you went out the door you were not sure you could! Forget the min miling split, you nailed that session!
Racing is racing, training is training….consistency is really important as is communication with your coach, so they can plan accordingly for your stresses and strains. However, dont forget to train your mind set as well . Some athletes have no issue with this at all, where others find it harder. This can be for many reasons. For example, I know that I have quite a negative mind set when it comes to running. I have limited evidence in races, and have not completed running events for years, and have NEVER put more than about 3 months of consistent run training together, due to various injuries along the way. I am now the other side of surgery, I am running consistently, with a few niggles here and there, but nothing major, but have to work really hard not to approach every run with a mind set of whats going to go wrong. Now the more runs I do that I can take positives from, the better, but it is still quite a challenge. Yes, sometimes Ade has to point out the positives to me, it is hard, and it has to be worked at.
As for racing? Well, it is very rare to have a perfect race, and you will hear many athletes say with success “it all came together”, ” I had a near perfect race” – these races are Gems! But when you are swimming biking running, there is always the chance that something along the way will not necessarily go to plan. The key is to not let this drag you down, in the race, or after the race, as its self destructive and will lead to poor performance (I am speaking from experience here) I have thrown races away in the past through a negative mind set. However, I have also had stand out performances, and I can honestly say, these were all where I had a plan, I stuck to it, and what ever the race through at me, I remained positive and stuck to the plan. There is no point in being miserable after a swim, where you got dunked, swam off course, and ended up 2 mins slower than you hoped. Put it behind you, and stick to the plan for the bike. Same goes for the run, and this is often the hardest time as you are fatigued, and Mr Negative likes to come and visit. Well, kick him off your shoulder, and focus on technique, fuelling, getting to the next land mark, then the next and the next and so on.
Post race is the time to break down your performance, and not with phrases such as rubbish, awful, terrible, worst ever! This is not helpful, and is not productive in moving forward. First of all, what went well? Sometimes we are so hard on ourselves, and are always looking at what went wrong, and what we should be doing better. Actually its really important for you to give yourself some self praise at your achievements as well…..Then, and only then, look at the areas you feel you could have done better, break it down. Why did it not go to plan? Was it bad luck, was it because you were not prepped, or didnt nail your fuelling? Was it that you had a really rough week leading into the race? So many factors to consider? Then you need to look at what can you do to limit this in your next race.
It isnt really rocket science is it? However, we do this sport, spend hours and hours training, spending our hard earned cash on race entries, and sometimes come away miserable? Remember why you do it, remember that actually its one hell of an achievement to balance working and families with full on training as well, so take pride and self satisfaction in what you are doing, and dont be too hard on yourself if it does not always go to plan