Have you entered an event and then said, “OMG I don’t think I can do it”? This is more common than you think, when a new athlete joins me and suffers from this anxiety, I treat it as more of “I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’ll find out”. The great thing about entering an event outside your comfort zone is that you will finish because mentally you are prepared to finish! Training your brain is as important as training your body, there are many strategies and techniques which can be used to improve your focus, concentration, and performance. I’ve listed some that I use below;
I find it really useful to set both short and long term goals (outside of the event). A short term goal might be to get a training routine going, a long term goal might be to swim 2km in open water. Recently I’ve been working with my athletes on goal times for their events and breaking this time down per km or 100m, looking at where they are currently and planning the training to get them beyond where they perceive themselves being. Deciding on a plan of action identifies the steps required to achieve your goals.
Personal development has taught me that what you see to be true, is true. If you visualise yourself succeeding in your mind then you will. This is a great tool to use for visualising skills and techniques, and for the race itself. If you are struggling to get your training done, start to visualise yourself completing every session each week, and how it feels to accomplish that. I always race my race in my mind in the weeks leading up to the race, and I always see myself succeeding!
Many people do not know how to breath correctly, which is a shame as its an easy way to relax. Meditation is great to calm your body and mind and is a great way to relax and re-energise. Pilates is another option to work on breathing and also incorporates flexibility, strength and balance.
Breathing exercise - put one hand on your chest and one on your stomach, then take a deep breath. Which hand moves first? If you said the hand on your stomach then you are breathing correctly, if not then work on breathing deep into the bottom of your lungs (making your stomach more before your chest). This ensures maximum oxygen uptake. Try to breath into the bottom of your lungs while training and racing too!
Get yourself a good book on this one, I would recommend “What To Say When You Talk To Yourself” by Shad Helmstetter (it has all the tools you need). Self-Talk is important as this is how you talk to yourself. Do you say to yourself “I’ll never be good enough” or do you say “I know I am good enough”? The use of focus or mood words and positive self-statements will focus your attention on performance, create some emotion, build confidence and encourage you to maintain the effort.
Do you have one?? This is your strategy or routine to help you prepare mentally before and during competition, it should also prepare you for any mishaps or distractions that may occur. Your mental plan should incorporate one or more of the above mental skill techniques and is something you should review regularly. Run through how you will race in your mind, and come up with a plan to cope with potential mishaps outside your control, such as a puncture, a tight muscle, cramp, swim congestion or fatigue on the run. This will help to avoid the potential to crush yourself mentally if something goes wrong (I’ve done this before and it cost me an age group win!).
Sleep is the final key, this is when your body and mind recovers and recharges, aim for 8 hours a night. If you have had a baby you’ll know how much sleep deprivation takes out of you, and how hard it is to focus!
So plan, stay focused, relax, be positive, prepare, sleep and your season will be amazing!!!
If you would like to delve more into this, then I’d love to talk to you.
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Taking on new recruits now!!