This past year, I was very fortunate to be able to train for a month leading up to the Olympic Games with Australian triathlon legend, Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack. It was a great honour for me to train with him and I learned a great deal from him. He is such a wonderful, inspirational guy to be around and just oozes a great attitude to life. The most valuable lesson that I learned from Macca was the importance of our mental attitude.
He told me that when we compete in triathlon, we are competing in two races. The obvious race being the swim, cycle and run but the more significant race, is the one that occurs within our minds. If we can succeed in the mental race then we will succeed in triathlon. At whatever level you are competing in, the physical aspects of triathlon don’t usually determine who is successful. On any given day what separates the Brownlee brothers from the rest of the field is not necessarily the physical side (everyone at that level trains extremely hard) but it is indeed the mental side. Triathletes who have the most confidence in themselves, who can handle the pressure, are able to stay focused during their race, keep their emotions under control and who overcome the pain on race day are the triathletes that reach the top of the sport. “Never be afraid to give it your best shot Katie,” Macca told me. If you don’t succeed then at least you know you gave it everything there is and then there can be no regrets. Thanks to Macca, I have realised just how important the mental side to triathlon is.
Three ways you can improve mentally
1 Always make sure you have the necessary MOTIVATION to achieve your triathlon goals. Motivation is the foundation on which everything you do in triathlon is built. Without the desire and determination to train and compete everything else won’t fall into place. Motivation is the only contributor to our triathlon performance which we have control. We unfortunately have no control over our genetic makeup, the difficulty of the race in terms of competitors, race course and weather but a motivated athlete can break down these barriers.
2 CONFIDENCE is the most important contributor to our mental success. It affects every aspect of our training. We may have the ability to achieve our triathlon goals but if you do not have the necessary self belief then you will never perform to the level at which you are physically capable of.
3 One of the most misunderstood mental factors in the sport is FOCUS. Triathlon requires us to focus on many things all at once over a period of time. It means having the ability to adjust your focus internally (setting up transition one hour before the race and getting yourself physically, mentally and logistically ready to take on the swim) as well as externally during a race (blocking out distractions such as a flat tyre, negative thoughts and poor transitions).
Originally published in the January/February 2013 issue.