Both of those things are intimately linked to your mind’s perspective. Purge a negative thought in a key moment during the race and you can go from struggling to tapping back into the flow that takes you to the peak of your performance potential.
Look back at a race and mine some nuggets of gold from the day and it will feel like a gift even if the numbers next to your name in the results didn’t give you that boost of worthiness you’ hoped for.
Your mind’s perspective is the gatekeeper that can unlock the pure potential you have inside. Having a master class cranium isn’t as hard to gain as some might think.
The key is knowing what it is to practice so that you are a master of your mind’s perspective. Is that about developing a steely never-give-up attitude? Could it be learning how to go to a happy place within no matter what is going on? Does mastering your mind’s perspective mean feeling pumped up and positive every moment of a race? Do I have to wear a smile after a race even if I felt like it sucked in order to have a positive assessment of the day?
The answer is a small bit of all of these and a big dose of some things that might seem counter intuitive. There are many, many ways to do something positive for your mind’s perspective. I could give you enough to keep you busy for years. But I’m going to simplify it to one thing to practice that will then enable you to be steely, confident and positive.
Chatter slowly erodes each of those three things (being steely, confident and positive). Negative chatter is the most corrosive of all chatter. “I hate this. No way I can achieve my goal so why even keep going. It’s too hot, my legs hurt, why am I doing this stupid race?” If you’ve raced enough you will certainly be able to identify with those moments!
Trying to fight off these types of negative thoughts isn’t the solution that is most potent though. In tough moments you have negative thoughts because the positive ones can be nearly impossible to pull up! But if you can just be quiet, that is when you are the master of your mind’s perspective. It’s going to a place without thoughts. It’s when you just tell yourself to SHUT UP!
When your mind is quiet, you stop judging and assessing your performance and reengage in going as fast as you can in the moment you are in even if it’s not as fast as you might be able to go at another point in time.
When your mind becomes quiet, your focus shifts from being bound by everything going on inside of you (pain, struggling, feeling sorry for yourself, etc) to being aware of everything outside of yourself.
You see the beauty of the course you are racing on. You feel connected to life itself and stop worrying about how the day will turn out. When you quiet your mind, you can engage 100% in your effort without the weight of a negative thought or the need to find a positive one to give you strength. In silence you are the best version of yourself!
It’s actually very easy to practice quieting your mind. You can do it in a very traditional way through meditation. But this can often be difficult for athletes to then translate into where their mind goes in the chaos of racing.
A more natural way can be to focus on having this be a part of every workout you do. If you become aware of your thoughts going south in a training session, take a moment to do this:
Take my word for it. You will have PLENTY of opportunities to practice doing this.
Quiet will be a place that you know how to get to. Your thoughts and internal chatter will evaporate and be replaced with a sense of peaceful power. You’ll have a confidence that has nothing to do with how the day turns out. You’ll be tapped into your greatest potential.
Each time you regain quiet in a race your muscles will relax. Your flow will come back. Time will pass quickly and you’ll know you are doing THE best you can on the day. You may need to get yourself back to that special zone a thousand times through the day, but that’s okay. That’s the process of the day’s journey.
Then post-race in a week or two, look back at how the day went. Find that quiet once again and ask what the biggest lessons were for you. What did you gain from the race that will make the next one even better?
Here is a short video talking about these themes in simple race terms:
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(This is the sixth in a 9-part series of blogs on tips to help you train and race at your best!)
I am the Founder and CEO at Mark Allen Coaching. I am proud to have been voted in an ESPN global poll "The Greatest Endurance Athlete Of All Time." During my multi-sport career I won the Ironman Triathlon World Championship six time, the inaugural Triathlon World Championship at the Olympic Distance in Avignon, France, and at one point in my career I won 21 straight races across every derivation and distance. It was a great career, but that's all it would ever be unless I was able to share all of the experience and methodology we invented long before smart watches, power meters, and flashy uniforms. That's why I started Mark Allen Coaching, as a way to return to others at least the part of the gifts I received.