This blog post was written by Jen Brown, chief coach at Sparta PT. Jen is presenting ‘Ladies, New to Triathlon? How to Start and Finish Your Race with Confidence’ at the Australian Triathlon Endurance & Cycling Expo being held on 4-5 July at The Dome, Sydney Showground.
Whether it’s a Mud Run or City2Surf, a local park run, triathlon or ocean swim, events are a great way to stay motivated through the colder months.
Unlike weight loss goals which can easily be changed as you struggle with motivation, events give you a fixed deadline. You can't tell yourself ‘I’ll start next Monday’ because eventually you'll run out of Mondays and race day will arrive whether you’re ready or not!
For many, though, such events can be very daunting. And even if you've (sometimes secretly) thought to yourself ‘I'd love to do that one day’, the reality of having to face your fears and self-doubt can result in many people backing away from their goals and dreams.
While it's common to hear people say ‘I could never do that’, the reality is that with the right training for a few weeks or months, you can. What’s most likely to hold you back is not the physical demands of the event but your confidence (or lack thereof) and your mindset.
Here are some things to focus on that will help you develop the confidence and mindset you need not only to commit to your goal (which, in itself, can be a daunting exercise), but also front up on the start line on race day feeling calm and confident.
Realise that fear is a story you tell yourself
These stories come in the form of the little demon that sits on your shoulder and whispers ‘I can’t’, ‘I’m not a triathlete’, ‘I’m just a jogger’ and ‘I could never do that’.
Every fear or doubt you have about the event, or your ability to complete it, is a story you're telling yourself. And if you repeat these stories often enough they can become so deeply embedded in your subconscious you won't even realise you're having them!
Become aware of your thoughts – the dialogue that goes on inside your head. Rarely is it objectively or factually true. And then re-write the script. Challenge the assumptions and reframe them in a positive way. ‘Every day I train, I’m getting fitter and closer to my goal.’
Visualisation is priceless
No, you don’t need to sit cross-legged on a cushion in the middle of floor while incense burns in order to visualise!
Research shows that visualisation create changes in your brain because it activates the creative powers of your subconscious mind. Once you become aware of your thoughts, you'll realise how many stories you tell yourself subconsciously.
If there is something you’re nervous about, picture yourself addressing the situation. A flat tyre or a penalty in a triathlon, an intimidating obstacle in Tough Mudder or a moment of panic in an ocean swim; picture yourself dealing with it in a calm, considered and practical way without any panic, stress or alarm.
Only worry about the things you can control
It’s easier said than done of course! Doing a race for the first time can be very intimidating. But one way to control your anxiety and nerves is to only focus on things you can control. Worrying about the heat or the cold, the wind or the rain will only increase your anxiety levels. So let them go. Accept you have no control over it and that everyone will be facing the same challenge. And then move onto visualising the challenges you can control.
We all focus on the physical training required to achieve our goals. But your mindset is critical and often a forgotten part of event preparation. Take some time to become more aware of your thoughts. Then rewrite the scripts. It will help to reduce your nerves and fears, but will also shape the challenges you tackle and the life you lead.