Question: How do you mentally get through training sessions and races?

If you are like me, when I see anything longer than a 20 minute steady state interval on my schedule for a bike trainer session I start cursing my coach.  While I genuinely love cycling AND riding on my trainer, long stretches at the same cadence and same watts is perhaps one of the most mind numbing things I can possibly imagine doing.  What about that set of 40×100 or 20×200 in the pool?  Mile repeats on the track?

Getting through training and races is as much mental as it is physical and many times our failure is a result of mental weakness.  Just the other day, one of my Purplepatch besties Jess Smith wrote on her twitter “Lesson for the day – don’t give up, even when you think you feel like crap – you might surprise yourself and have a good workout”.  Her words could not ring more true.

Jess’ comment got me thinking a bit about the power of the mind and what I do mentally to get through tough workouts and more importantly, races.

For me it is all about one thing:  Compartmentalization.  Yep…that is right.  I break things down into psychologically manageable time segments or distances.

For example on a hard 20 minute interval on the bike, I first break the interval into 10 minute segments, and then break those 10 minute segments into 5 minute segments and then those 5 minute segments into 2.5 minute segments.  Suddenly that tough 20 minutes isn’t 20 minutes at all, but a series of completely achievable 2.5 minute efforts with no rest between.

In swim sets, I am all about 100’s.  Whether it be 200’s or 500’s, I look at each as either a 2×100 or 5×100 effort.

My run breakdown varies.  If I am doing a hard session on the treadmill, I will often go by quarter miles.  But in a race, and in particular in an Ironman, I typically break up the course into 3 or 6 mile pieces.

In whatever I am doing I believe that I can physically execute at a certain level for a defined period of time or distance, and then once that time is up, I move on and focus on the next increment.  Each period is relatively short so my chance of success is high.  Thus each small success builds upon the former, building my confidence and ultimately increases my chance of success over the entire workout or race.  If I falter, I only falter for that small period and then mentally reset myself only a short while later.

But does everyone do this, or am I the only crazy who compartmentalizes everything?!?!  Perhaps there are better and more efficient ways to psychologically get through training and racing.  My Purplepatch teammate Jesse Thomas talks to himself and uses positive reinforcement by saying things like “You are AWESOME!!” and “You are rocking this course”   – it’s a great idea, but something I have yet to fully be able to get my head around (I tried it…didn’t go so well..).  Nevertheless as I look to make the next step up in my triathlon career, I’m always looking for ways to improve.

If you have any great ways that you get through training or racing, please send them my way!  I’d love to hear from you!



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