Keep Your Mental Tools Sharp!

Racing well requires a set of mental tools that must be honed and sharpened during training sessions. The best training sessions mimic race conditions as closely as possible allowing the athlete to experience the psychological pressure and tactics of racing against other people while under physical stress. In other words, you have to know what the pain and effort is going to feel like when it really counts and be able to handle the mental chatter that arises. For example, when things are going well and you feel great, it’s easy to keep going. However, when you are far above your comfort zone in terms of pace and pain threshold, your mind will do everything possible to get you to slow down or stop, convincing you that you can’t possibly continue at that effort. But, in reality, you can. To do so, two things must happen. First, you have to turn off the voice in your head that keeps repeating, “You can’t do this.” Second, you have to completely focus on something that allows your body to do the work it needs to do without the hindrance of your mind. For example, focus on a breathing pattern, body position, and relaxing any muscles that are not involved in the physical process of moving you forward. Some people sing or repeat a mantra. I believe it is better to focus on something internally that you can control. None of this is easy to do. But it is doable and trainable.