Too frequently triathletes are told by their coaches to ignore what is going on around them. The coaches who tell you to just not do it are unaware of the power of habit. Following the crowd, going out too fast because of the other athletes around you, is a symptom of a habit. Under pressure, you are going to return to your old familiar habits. This is why competing successfully in triathlons is a mental game.
Jean’s goal was to approach this triathlon race season differently. She has a big heart, goes with the flow and is a joiner. Jean has been this way as long as she could remember. Caring for other people and volunteering time toward worthy causes is highly satisfying for her. Jean needed the psychological proficiency to withstand the pressures of the race.
Just like Jean’s tendency to go out too fast then burn out early in the race, this occurs in other parts of her life as well. Jean’s solution, therefore, was to develop better boundaries on and off the course.
The first step to change is recognizing the habit. Habits have a cue, or trigger, and a learned response. Don’t worry about changing the cue, or trigger. Instead figure out a better way you would like to respond to the cue.
The approach Jean took was to acknowledge the anxiety and expectation of others, increase her personal self awareness, find effective ways to deal with pressure situations and stick to her plan.
Her three step plan:
1. Develop a strategy to compliment her giving nature
2. Plan for potential situations which could drain her energy
3. Strengthen boundaries
This tactic validated Jean’s reality. The approach to shift her attitude to endure tough moments in the heat of the race and confidently deal with adversity. It provided tools so she could stick with her race plan.
Triathletes understand the importance of strength and endurance. Athletes would never consider racing without the time spent preparing for the event. It would be foolish.
It’s your disadvantage when only a fraction of your training hours are used to strengthen your mindset. To race well, under all conditions, requires physical along with mental endurance. Don’t take the chance that your untrained mindset will get you through the race when your tired, hurting and depleted.
Even with the best intentions, Jean knew her pattern. She disregarded her plan at the start of the race because her natural tendency was to follow other people’s lead. Awareness was the first step toward change. Jean wasn’t told to break a habit. Instead she was shown how to respond to her cues differently to achieve her goals.
The decision to change her approach to the racing start had unexpected benefits. She began setting boundaries in other areas of her life leading to increased confidence. Stronger confidence led to her being more committed to her racing strategy. Even when fatigued Jean was able to dig deep to keep going. With a fresh perspective, Jean started her season strong. Sticking to her plan led to a new outcome.
Challenge: What triggers throw off your focus, affecting the way you start your race? Usually there is some underlying reason triggering the response. Do you know what it is? If a friend were telling you about this same situation how would you respond? What would be your suggestion? Experiment. Follow your suggestion to see how well it works for you.