The mind is an amazing thing. You can use it wisely to discover how strong you really are in life or you can let it fill up with negative thoughts and emotions which then lead you to damaging actions.
When it comes to life, it's easy to sweat the small stuff. I find that many athletes waste a lot of energy on things out of their control and I'll be the first to admit that I still want to discuss situations that I can not control with Karel and Gloria
. Oh jeez, I can't tell you how many times I have worried about the wind and weather only to find myself quickly feel re-assured that I can deal with every situation that is within my control. I am constantly in-tune with my waves of emotions before a race and I have to remind myself over and over that 2,3-6 weeks ago I craved this day to come with every awesome workout complete. I remind myself that racing in triathlons is a choice- a choice that I commit myself to and I must finish the task at hand. For I paid money to train and prepare my body for the upcoming event and only I can get myself to the finishing line. I remove any pressure from myself that my race performance is going to make/break my life and instead, consider that what I get to do with my body is a gift that many people in life never feel or desire to feel in life.
How many times have you been in a bad or sad situation and tried to be happy? It's very hard to turn that frown upside down and sometimes we can't expect to be happy right away. But believe it or not, sports allows you to learn a lot about yourself, if you let a negative situation turn into a positive. Perhaps a race that didn't go as planned or just missing the podium or a personal best. There will always be times in races when things are not going as planned and you can either find yourself wrapped in negative thoughts...like a maze of negativity with no clear escape OR you can open your tool box of "strong thoughts" and show yourself that you can get out of any situation with the right state of mind and action plan.
Being nervous, having high expectations, worrying about the future, thinking about the past, worrying about what others will think, telling yourself it is not worth it. There are many things that occur in the mind before something important and that can be a lot to handle all at once.
As I walked to the transition area of my last Ironman 3 weeks ago in Lake Placid,
I chatted with Trimarni coaching athlete Laura and Karel (Trimarni hubby) about ME being nervous. I joked that it was my 6th Ironman and here I am walking with two first-timers and I was just as nervous as they were. I knew what it felt like to finish 140.6 miles of racing and I had many races of experiences in my tool box to manage many race day situations. But I found I wasn't nervous because I doubted my fitness or ability to finish the race as I felt I had enough experience and training to cover the distance. I personally was nervous because my endorphins were flowing and I had no idea how the day would go and I needed to get things started so that my mind could relax. It's amazing how everything ALWAYS seems to sort itself out when the race starts. It's like the mind is so on-edge before the race and when the gun goes off and the chip crosses the timing mat, your body just knows exactly what to do. Then, all you have to manage is your mind. When I started swimming at Ironman Lake Placid, just like in the past 5 Ironman's, my nerves reflected my excitement that I needed to just start what my body was trained to do and that my mind was going to be my only limiter on race day.
I can't tell you how many times I have allowed myself to give up in training because my mind was tired. Over the past few years, I have battled with my mind to allow my body to keep going. For if my mind is tired but my body is still hanging in there, what's the point of surrendering to thoughts of "this is feeling
With coaching many athletes over the past few years and working on nutrition for pre-race/race day with athletes, I've learned that every athlete manages pre-race nerves differently and that is to be respected. Every athlete has his/her own of ritual or ways of preparing for a race and not everyone finds it easy to manage emotions before a race. Certainly, we do not want to offend people or be rude to others just because we are nervous, scared, overwhelmed, frightened or worried but by working on your pre-race nerves can assist in better breathing, a more controlled heart rate, better digestion and a better racing experience all together.
Since I have received so much help from my own personal sport psychologist Gloria (aka Mental coach Dr. G), I reached out to Gloria for some of her TOP personal blogs that she has written in order to help others learn how to create a strong mind.
Helpful links on managing the pre-race jitters