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Mental Resilience for Training, Racing & Recovery

Mental Resilience for Training, Racing & Recovery

April 30, 2018

When you are about to hang a left and head home early from a long bike ride or a run session is the perfect time for your mantra to come to life, “heading home now is giving my competitors more time to get faster than me”, “I’m not going to improve looking at the bike am I?” Using self-inflicted peer pressure can be the way to squeeze that little extra out of training, racing or even recovery! Why sit and watch the TV when you could be doing a little stretching or foam rolling?

We often see ourselves sitting with a coffee in hand at 08:00hrs looking out the window, betting on which rain drop is going to win the race to the bottom of the glass saying ‘there is no way in the world that you are going to go out in that weather!’ What happens next? Mantra time ……. “What’s my alternative?” or “It might be sunny 10km down the road” or “it might not be that bad out” or “sure I’ll do 5km and see how it is”. Self Talk (mantra’s), emotional control and relaxation techniques should form one of the most important parts of your “athlete tool box”.

At The Athlete Clinic we get our athletes to stand back and separate themselves from the moment. We ask them to relax and have a look down from above, like a drone at what’s going on in the moment and to do this as a visitor to the situation. A study by the Health & Life Science Dept. at York St’ John University revealed that self-talk, emotional control, and relaxation strategies were significantly and positively related to mental toughness in both practice and competition. In separating oneself from the negative situation the athlete can generate an “alter ego” and use it to drive any situation or environment that causes regression or a negative focus.

Another paper by the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Loughborough University, “A grounded theory of psychological resilience in Olympic Champions” found that numerous psychological factors (relating to a positive personality, motivation, confidence, focus, and perceived social support) protect the world’s best athletes from the potential negative effect of stressors by influencing their challenge appraisal and meta-cognitions. These processes promote facilitative responses that precede optimal sport performance. The emergent theory provides sport psychologists, coaches and national sport organisations with an understanding of the role of resilience in athletes’ lives and the attainment of optimal sport performance.

For you the athlete moving towards your goal it is important that you and your goal are supported and surrounded by people who positively and willingly want to be on the same page as you. Reaching out to the right people to assist you build your support structure is one of the most important jobs you will ever do in reaching your goals. Use your alter ego to check, analyse and keep your train on track! Use the “Emergent Theory” (Emergent norm theory hypothesizes that nontraditional behavior (such as that associated with collective action) develops in crowds as a result of the emergence of new behavioural norms in response to a precipitating crisis.) to support you. Your support structure is your crowd!

Five Tips

1. Stay objective about your training and racing and don’t get too emotionally involved.

2. Don’t look to far down the road, rather focus on the here and now.

3. Use visualisation techniques before hard training sessions and on race day. If you believe and see it happening beforehand it becomes a memory which is easy to recall and act out.

4. You are and will always be what you and your crowd think you are. Believe in what you will be when you achieve your goal and apply it from the start.

5. Use your Mantras and remember sometimes you might need to whisper them to yourself as when you are on your own on the side of the road with a puncture shouting self abuse at the puncture might be misunderstood by passers by.

Happy Miles!

About the Author – Jonathan Gibson, The Athlete Clinic

Jonathan Gibson is a High Performance Coach guiding athletes across many sports to their chosen goals. He coaches on the Domestic, European & World circuits. As an athlete himself, he has set national records & won medals as an elite national/international swimmer & cyclist. Jonathan has been involved in High Performance sport for over 35 years as an athlete & coach. He set up and manages the under 23 Irish Talented Athlete Programme (ITAP) and guided the Galway Baybes Female Cycling Team to their National Record in the 2,212km Race Around Ireland in 2017. He believes in the KISS, “Keep it Simple, stupid”. He operates from the Athlete Clinic in Galway


Race distances

Race distances

For the absolute beginners and children to the professional triathletes, the Castle Triathlon Series offers a wealth of race distances to suit all levels.

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