Mental strength in sport is sometimes talked about but is not well understand and is much less practiced.
Many people see it as something you’ve either got or you don’t; rather than something you can develop.
But anyone who is a tough as nails knows that this skill required years of practice, commitment and discipline to become so strong.
And by the way the practice and discipline is totally worth it as once you’ve developed mental strength in sport, this mental strength applies to your whole life.
I do not use “bad” language in my speech or writing… however I was inspired by the awesomeness of an article I came across this week that really captured a lot of my interactions with several clients recently. I had to give some individuals a serious (metaphorical) slap.
It was posted by Martin Berkhan in LeanGains (2011) and discusses the disease of “f*ckarounditis”. I believe it applies EVEN more today. (I apologize for any offence caused by the language however the message is worth it. Plus if you exercise a degree of mental strength, you will “get over it” and get the important message :)
Even though the original post applies to gym training, the principles apply equally to triathlon training and indeed most endeavours in life.
Mental Strength in Sport
Do you want results?
How much are you prepared to give?
Do you complain about “lack of progress?”
Stick to the plan.
I will quote some of the poignant bits from the article then discuss my views with respect to triathlon.
“Fuckarounditis is a behavioral disorder characterized by a mediocre physique and complete lack of progress, despite significant amounts of time spent in the gym”.
The same can be said for many triathletes who do average training and therefore get average results. And this is totally fine if that is your goal. It is not fine if you are complaining about lack of progress :)
It is especially noticeable with triathletes who complain how bad the swim is and complain that they swim a lot but just get no better. The main thing I have noticed is that these same people do not do the important work of drills, they do not bother getting an expert to look at them to point out the obvious flaws they could improve and they do not practice mental strength in sport on a regular basis.
Unless you master the fundamentals, you will never get to the sexy stuff: effortless swimming, arriving at T1 in the first group and your first magazine shoot :)
You do not wake up one day and suddenly become as mentally tough as a navy seal. It takes regular practice.
“Fuckarounditis most commonly manifests itself as an intense preoccupation with crunches, curls, cable movements, belts, gloves, balance boards, Swiss Balls… Fear of squats and deadlifts is another distinguishing trait. Physical exertion is either completely lacking or misapplied (towards questionable or unproductive training practices).”
Triathletes are notorious for skipping “time-saving” activities like strength training in favor of “another steady state bike or run”. Of those triathletes who do make it to the gym, many of them make the same strength training mistake over and over again. They go too light, doing 3 x 30 reps on things that do not make a difference instead of actually doing proper strength training like squats and deadlifts and going heavy for 5-8 reps.
Yes it requires immense mental strength in sport to actually do what matters rather than doing what you “feel” like.
Looking for the “magic bullet”, the “one short-cut” or the latest time trial bike will not get you massive results. Instead having the mental strength to DO the work will. Do not mistake “being busy” for effectiveness.
As triathletes, we are certainly busy. None of us would say we are lazy. “Ordinary mortals” in the office no doubt think you are superman/wonderwoman. However if YOUR goals are not being achieved, if YOU are not making progress, if YOU line up at the start line and think “I could beat all these people” but then you don’t….then the mistake might be in going away and doing more of the same “average” activities.
Instead you may need to look hard at what you are doing.
Mental strength in sport requires honest self analysis.
Doing average things will yield average results.
Are you tracking your progress?
Are you doing mental strength in sport training?
Are you doing strength training?
Are you getting regular race practice?
Have you optimized your diet?
Do not allow this disease to take hold.
Do not yield to complacency.
By choosing triathlon, you are already a special elite character.
To go from good to great, you only have to do things 1% better than most people to have outstanding success.
If you want some guidance with NLP training/hypnosis to help develop immense mental strength in sport, this triathlete specific program has amazing downloadable MP3s and workbooks to help you master this skill and develop mental strength in sport, uber race confidence and get “in the zone” quickly. This will also help your training and racing be more effective. Triathletes around the world acknowledge that the mental element of training and racing is paramount.
If you know weakness of mind is an issue, if you “crumble” at big moments, if you get overwhelmed by anxiety or if you just have a massive case of not getting yourself to do the basics, or not training full-out, some mental strength training may be your missing link.
It is one thing to “wish” and hope you are mentally tough. It is another to commit to it for 90 days, do a program and get the results that you can carry with you forever and use in every aspect of life. Maybe you want the mental strength to ask that girl/boy out on a date or the mental strength to ask your boss for a raise?
Start practicing now.
In the meantime, here are some highlights from the rest of the article:
Do you recognise anyone? Enjoy :)
The Fuckarounditis Test:
1. You don’t keep track
2. You are not methodical
3. You don’t plan for progress
4. You are doing too much shit
5. You are lifting weights for the calorie burn.
6. You avoid squats and deadlift, because you think they’ll give you a wide waist
7. Are you still warming up? I can’t tell.
8. You have all kinds of elaborate excuses for why you don’t need to squat and deadlift.
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