Reducing the volume of training, resting any niggling injuries. Organizing your equipment and catching-up on any over-due sleep that’s been sacrificed to training over the past few months. With all that extra time you now find on your hands, there is one vital final piece of the puzzle that can be added to your Ironman preparation. This piece deals with Mental Dominance at Ironman…
For years, the world’s top athletes have been utilizing psychology as a key to over-come nerves and tap into their true athletic potential on some of the biggest stages of the sporting world. This has proven to be such an essential that almost every elite athlete now has a personal sport psychologist traveling the globe with them event after event. They help with calming those pre-race nerves and utilizing techniques such as “imagery” and “thought-stopping” to reduce the psychological gap between “just another training session” and a world cup event.
Although it’s most commonly used by elite athletes, the benefits of sport psychology can have one of the biggest impacts on performance in recreational or age-group athletes who aren’t exposed to a high level of competition as often.
Here’s a step-by-step guide taken out of the book of an elite athlete’s preparation for an event that you too can incorporate into the build-up to your event to ensure that you arrive in Nelson Mandela Bay confident and ready to race…
A Guide to Mental Dominance at Ironman
- Begin by closing your eyes and relaxing your breathing. (5 seconds inhaling, 5 seconds exhaling) as you draw your attention and thoughts to yourself. Now, change your thoughts to reflect on the training that you have done up to this point, right from the first session up all the way up until today. Reflect on the hard amount of effort and sacrifice you have poured into this. Now, believe in the fact that you have done your utmost best leading to this point, both in training and in your personal preparation.
- Keeping your eyes closed, change your thoughts to the present. Focus on your personal skills in each discipline, identifying your strengths. Now, begin to visualise yourself in first person, lining up for the start of your race. As the gun fires, picture yourself racing the swim exactly as you’ve trained. Then, envision T1 as you get onto your bike and complete the bike leg before T2 and the run into the finish. Visualise each one of these individual disciplines in as great as of detail as possible, repeating them over and over.
- Next, add in the detail. Begin to visualise the other competitors, the spectators lined along the barricade, cheering you on. The sweat dripping down your forehead, the emotions as you cross the finish-line in your goal time. As you link your race up from start to finish, simulating the race day environment.
- Lastly, bring your thoughts back to the present as you again reflect back on the work that you have poured into your goal of completing Ironman. Believe in yourself. Believe in how hard you have worked to get to this point. Be proud of what you have achieved and confident in the fact that you are going to walk away from Nelson Mandela Bay as an Ironman finisher.
This visual rehearsal for Mental Dominance at Ironman can be done for as long as and as often as you want. The more times completed the better. Allowing your subconscious to arrive at the race feeling as if you have been there before, reduces pre-race anxiety levels and uplifting your confidence and in end, performance too!
My suggestion is to find 30 minutes each day leading up to the event where you can lay down, plug your earphones in your ears and run through the above imagery rehearsal over and over, increasing the detail with each one. This can be done all the way up until line up time on race day.
Having the mental strength on race-day of an ultra-endurance event can be a key factor to achieving your true athletic potential, so don’t skip out on training your brain too. Mental conditioning is just as much as a factor as mastering your swim, bike and run disciplines. So, my advice to you is to use your time wisely this week as you rest your legs to squeeze in one final heavy gym set (for your brain of course) to help you get the most out of your Ironman experience.
Brandon is the Founder of Pure Athlete Performance. He is a sport scientist and endurance specialist. Brandon's passion as a coach to help athletes, ranging from recreational to professional, to achieve their true athletic potential has led to numerous national and continental championships under his guidance.