Better late in the evening than never. I wanted to make sure todays post was well thought out and well worded. Good job if you are still hanging with me through the Mental Monday journey. Hopefully you have learned a bit about yourself thus far...I sure have! You should have some tools in a little journal set aside for when we are in the "heat of it". This week I'm talking about emotions. Sit back, relax, and have a good read. If you enjoy it, leave a comment, if not, leave one too :).
One of the noble lessons from the sport of triathlon is that we can shape ourselves and our surroundings mentally, physically, and emotionally...Triathletes are indeed the "new Jedi order" of highly trained mental and physical giants. - Mitch Thrower
Training for endurance events can bring out every emotion in the book. Although physical training can be tiring, most endurance athletes note the emotional aspects of training and racing to be the most demanding. All is great when you are feeling pride, fulfillment, contentment, joy, and exhilaration, but the tables quickly turn when despair, defeat, disappointment, regret, anxiety, fear, and frustration hit the psyche. These ups and downs are healthy for the athlete and can help you to gain insight into your training and racing.
These emotions may give you the feeling that you are really living life, or they may make you uncomfortable (if you aren't typically an emotional person). The goal of the endurance athlete should not be to bottle up the negative emotions, or try to avoid them. The goal is to recognize them, understand their reasons for coming up, process them, resolve them, and replace them with positive emotions.
Negative emotions should be a signal to you that something is awry with your physiology (intensity, stress, fatigue, illness, injury, nutrition). Emotions are your guide to what the body is doing, a litmus test of sorts. If you are cranky, depressed, and not enjoying life you may be over-training. If you are frustrated, angry or melancholy that can be a major indicator of over intensity. Particularly in longer races, a shift toward negative emotions can indicate a pending nutritional crisis.
So how does one go about programming the mind to respond to, learn from, and replace the vast aray of negative emotions that we encounter in training and racing?
First: Believe that change is possible. Just because you have always though a certain way, or let a negative thought get the best of you...you and your mind can change...if you think you can!
Second: You might need to examine some of your emotional baggage. Some of this baggage tends to help us respond to negative emotions in pre-set ways. Sometimes you have to deal with an underlying issue before you can expect your mind to handle a negative emotion in a new way. You may need to seek the help of a professional for this step.
Third: Recognize which negative emotions hurt your efforts. Some emotions pass, others are very detrimental to your performance. Each person is different, so you need to know what your personal triggers are. For some it may be fear that paralyzes them (steep descents), for others it may be feelings of inadequacy (while getting passed) that they struggle to recover from.
Fourth: Specify alternative emotional reactions to situations that commonly trigger negative emotions. If you have FEAR of steep descents practice saying "Calm and Controlled" during all downhill rides. If you feel inadequate when passed, and your performance degrades because of it, practice saying "Strong, calm, and under control, I run my own race". Get it? Replace those mental phrases with new ones.
Fifth: Be patient. These things take time. It's always a work in progress. Work on the problems that you know about and expect to see new ones pop up with each race you do.
In the beginning it's hard to understand that the race is not against others but against that little voice in your head that tells you when to quit. - Charles Brenke
Homework: While reading this you must have though of a few common negative emotions that creep up in your training. Take this week to tackle those. Think of some alternative phrases and start practicing. Get used to remembering what your mind says to you when you train. This takes some practice too.