Sunday, May 11, 2008

It's all mental, baby

What one quickly realizes in doing a tri is that it's really more about your mental rather than physical state of being. Few people will dare to believe that they can a multisport like this, even though in reality they are physically able to do it. It's really about believing what you can do.

When the mind is focused, the body has no choice but to perform. However when the mind is not willing, the body gladly gives in/up.

I noticed this in my training last season. In water, the minute fear arose in my mind, my breathing became rapid and irregular and I struggled in the water (inspite of being able to swim decently). On land, the minute the thought arose in my mind that I was tired, my legs felt less strong. One of the biggest challenges of a training program is the sheer discipline of keeping to it.

So when you have kept to a self-made promise, you should pat yourself on back and encourage yourself further. I told myself I would do a 2-mile walk on Saturday, and I kept to it. And it felt good! :)

Here are a few things I'd like to share about mental preparation:

1. A key thing I learnt is how to keep the mind occupied during a triathlon so that I can allow my body to perform to the best of its capacity.

(a) To overcome my fear of open water, I kept my focus on the pattern of strokes and fixed my gaze ahead, near the surface of the water rather than look below into the seemingly unending depth of the lake. This kept my thoughts from wandering into what lies beneath..

(b) During my training with Rogue last year, I was encouraged to create a bike mantra. It could be super simple ("Go, girl, go girl go, go, go!"), but it should be something repetitive that one can focus on, so that we don't spend time expending mental energy on negative thoughts ("This whole tri thing was a super bad idea", "The ride is too hilly, I don't have energy to do this" etc.) It's also great to start with the mantra early in training so that we build on it as an anchor to get us through the tough times.

2. It is also about doing the training step-by-step, and taking one workout at a time. I don't try to think of how I'm going to be able to complete 11miles on bike, I just do the training workout for the week of 3 miles or whatever is the mileage for that week, and trust that I'll eventually get to the target distance.

3. Having race goals really help. My goal last year was to finish the tri.. and then it changed as I got more enthusiastic & ambitious! :) Regardless, it's helpful to have a goal so that it keeps you in check about where you're currently at with training.

4. Visualization - imagine yourself completing the challenging distance/activity effortlessly. As you think, the body will respond accordingly.

5. Tied to (3) & (4) is having a visual symbol of your goal. My coaches last year encouraged us to do a collage of what we hoped would be the outcome of our triathlon experience. I had a lot of fun making the collage, and would look at it often to remind myself of my goal.

We are what we believe! :)


Itisha said...

I couldn't agree more on the "mantra" rule. A positive, repeatable mantra can definitely keep negative thoughts away. Last year, it was a like.. someone inside me was cheering for me and that kept pushing me throughout the race.

Charanya said...

Visualization is definitely the key!! Something similar I wrote about in my blog during my marathon training last year!

G3 and I personally love to chant "We love hills!!" whenever we had tackle those nasty Austin hills during our half-marathon training as well!!