Category Archives: mental training

DNS and haywire hormones

I’ve blogged about a DNF before, but how about a DNS? It happens, and feels pretty crappy. So I’m just going to go through what happened, as I’m sure it may feel familiar to some of you, and may even help with accepting it.

Last year I entered an off road duathlon, which was cancelled, I was given a free place in this years event which I was really looking forward to, however in the week leading up to the race, I was feeling pretty negative about the whole thing. The thought of getting up on Saturday morning in the cold and dark to drive to Afan wasn’t really appealing to me.

On Thursday I woke up with a sore neck, and couldn’t swim on Friday because it hurt too much, I was also pre-menstrual. My moods have been really bad for the last 3 months. This is almost another blog, but just as an overview, I think some of my hormones are out of whack, as I have been extremely tearful and depressed the week before my period, which isn’t normal for me, then as soon as it starts I feel normal again.

Anyway I got up, prepared to race, and kept telling myself that as soon as I got there and was registered etc, it would all be fine, and that I would feel worse if I didn’t race, so off I drove. Just over an hour later I arrived at registration where it was still pretty quiet. I payed my £5 to park, went into registration, and my name wasn’t on the start list. The organiser said he’d have to wait to give me a number, and to come back in around half an hour. I left the building starting to get tearful, as I wanted to rack up and just get everything sorted so I could warm up etc. I waited for over half an hour then went back to join the now long queue. When I got to the table they still couldn’t give me a number, and there was no sign of the organiser. I was brushed off, and my second emotional episode of the day started. I called Patrick and explained the situation, I assumed I would have to wait until everyone had registered before I got my number, which isn’t how I like to get ready for a race, leaving everything until last minute. I tried to let it go, and just think of racing for fun, but was just too upset, and part of me just wanted to go and meet the boys. Patrick told me to go for a quick ride around, and then I may feel better, as sitting in the car on your own is not great for morale! I rode off into the bike park, did a few circuits, and then started to feel a bit better, but not better enough to go and make a nuisance of myself again at registration. By now I knew that they would be closing transition, and I just wanted to get out of there.

Maybe if I’d been feeling a bit more positive I would have gone and found the organiser, but by that time I was on a pretty negative spiral, felling sorry for myself, and generally giving myself a hard time. I decided to forget it, and go meet the boys at the climbing wall, so rode around a bit more until the runners had gone, and then drove down to Pontadarwe, where I went for a run, and continued my Canal path tour of Britain (3 different paths in the last 3 months!)

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The next 24 hours were horrible. After we’d finished climbing I cried a lot, tried to explain myself to Patrick, and got into a pretty depressed state. I’m over it now, helped by the fact that my period started, I’m sure.

So if you do have a DNS there are usually some pretty good reasons for it happening

  • Shit happens, you can’t always control everything, things may have been different if my name had been on the start list.
  • You can’t always be on it, sometimes you don’t have the willpower or motivation, and that is ok, even the best have bad days.
  • Sometimes you just have to ride out a bad mood, and accept that you are pretty miserable right now, acknowledging your upset will allow you to feel better in the end.
  • In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter, although it may feel like it at the time.

If you are struggling with motivation, keep an eye on it, as it may be a sign of something a bit deeper. I’m monitoring my moods now, as The past 3 months have been pretty up and down, it could be a sign that something else isn’t right. Look out for patterns of behaviour, and if there’s anything you can do to improve the way you react in certain situations, then that can be positive. But also remember that sometimes you just aren’t “on it”

 

 

4 things that you can practise in yoga, and training or racing endurance events.

Mental Training to improve performance.

Yoga and an Ironman race may sound like 2 complete opposites, but there can be many similarities in the way we practice in both areas. As well as the physical benefits of practising yoga, there are many psychological benefits too.

Imagine you are getting ready to race an event, you feel nervous and scared. Practising yoga will help you to alleviate these fears, here are some examples in how you can transfer your skills.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being present. At the beginning of a yoga class you may sit and ground yourself, by closing your eyes and focussing on your breathing, then letting go of what happened to you during the rest of the day and becoming present focussed. You can use this skill at the beginning of a race to clear your mind, and also throughout racing, if something goes wrong, for example you get a puncture, accept it, and calmly do what you need to do, to get going again. More importantly, let go of the feelings of upset, that you may have about having a problem, then you can continue to race at the best of your ability.

Breathing

During a yoga practice the breath is often linked to movement, becoming aware of how you are breathing is an important part of yoga practice, and this can also be transferred to a triathlon. Before a race you may use breathing techniques to calm yourself down, and whilst racing you need to be aware of how you are breathing, as it is linked to how much effort you are making. Check in with your breathing every now and then, you could even visualise your blood being oxygenated by your breathing.

Mind over matter

Imagine you have been asked to hold a pose in yoga, your legs start to shake and you start wondering when you can release the pose. Your teacher tells you to breathe and relax into the posture, and you begin to feel better in that position. The same thing can happen in endurance racing/training. There will be times when you feel bad, and you don’t want to carry on, just relax into it and know that it will pass. You can’t fight against the feeling, just realise that it won’t last forever, make sure you are not holding tension anywhere in your body/face, and maybe use some positive affirmation.

Positive affirmation

One of the Yamas of Yoga is Ahimsa (non violence). This is the practice of compassion, and being kind to yourself. This may sound strange when you are asking your body to push itself beyond what it finds comfortable, but you can do it in a compassionate way. For example, you may be going through a bad time during a race. Instead of being unkind to yourself by telling yourself that you are not going fast enough or making enough effort, change the way you speak to yourself. You could have a phrase that you repeat for example “I am the best that I can be” “powerful and strong” This will override your negative thought patterns. Think about how you speak to yourself, are you being kind and compassionate? Would you say those things to someone else? Read more about the 5 Yamas of yoga here

Acceptance

Sometimes, if you are in a yoga class, the person next to you, or behind you, is able to do a pose with ease, and you are struggling. Sometimes what you did one week, feels impossible the next. It doesn’t matter, we are all different, instead of comparing yourself to others, accept yourself and your situation as it is. You may have had a bad training session/race, it happens, and in the grand scheme of things it isn’t that important. Learning to accept, and move on is a useful skill to develop.

 

Mental Training

Pre-race nerves

Pre-race nerves

The jitters

I wrote a post about tapering a few months ago, which addresses some of the things that may come up in the weeks leading up an event. If you want to take a look then it is here.

Its nearly Ironman Wales race day, and I know how a lot of you will be feeling… nervous, excited, and scared, to name a few emotions, and on top of that you need rest before the big day. The main thing you need to do is let go of these negative emotions. By this I mean acknowledge that you feel a certain way, try to work out why, and then let go.

Have a plan

I encourage my athletes to make a race plan, so that if any worry crops up before race day they know that they have planned for it and are prepared. A plan needs to be adaptable, as unexpected things happen. You can plan for these events to a certain extent but bear in mind that on race day something may happen that you haven’t planned for. Dealing with these events is what racing is all about as you learn about yourself and can develop as a person. So even if it goes wrong you will learn something!

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Uncontrollable’s

If its a fear about the weather, or conditions then there is nothing you can do about it. Everyone is facing the same thing, you will get through whatever the race throws at you, if you have prepared properly. There is little point in worrying about things that are beyond your control just let go and accept.

Never mind about the weather!

Never mind about the weather!

Use the force!

If you are excited, then channel that energy into positive thoughts about the race. Any time you feel a surge of adrenaline then think of a key phrase or song that motivates you. One of my favourites is “I am the best that I can be”, as it doesn’t rely on a result or time to be achieved. You will be the best that you can be on race day whatever happens.

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Relax

Before the race you may be very nervous and stressed, you may find a relaxation CD, or some relaxing stretching could help you in the days before, if you can’t sleep . On the day I found deep breathing was useful. Last year as I was standing in a group of nervous athletes I told a couple of my friends to try to breathe in slowly then breathe out longer that the breath in (similar to birthing and yoga breathing) A few people turned around when we did it together, but I found it really helped to calm my nerves before I got in the water.

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Smile

Enjoy the race. Remember how lucky you are to be able to race today, smiling relaxes your body and makes you feel good so I’m hoping to see some happy faces on Sunday!

smiley-face-journey

Tapering and what to expect

A lot of athletes are tapering or will be tapering for an event round about now. This is arguably one of the most mentally challenging parts of your training so far. You may feel a variety of conflicting emotions. I will run through some of these below, and hopefully put any last minute anxieties to rest.

You may feel you have not done enough training

Look at your training plan, did you complete most of the sessions? Have you remained consistent? If the answer is yes then well done, you have no reason to be worried about what you have done. If you haven’t then it is beyond your control now. Let go of any fear you may have about not doing enough training, you did what you could do at the time, and that is enough to get you through your event. Don’t try and cram in extra workouts now, you will not gain fitness by training hard in the last few weeks before the event, your work here is done! Screenshot 2015-07-09 17.20.49 You may have niggles/heavy legs

As race day approaches it is common to notice every twinge and become concerned. It is more than likely your mind is playing tricks on you. Your legs may feel heavy and tired, this is normal, and you are not alone. It can be down to your muscle tissue rebuilding so think of it as a good sign, and make sure you rest enough to allow your body to do what it needs to do (Recover) Stretch, and massage. Make sure you don’t massage too close to an event as sometimes it can move things around and cause problems to flare up. There is a stretching routine here which may help you to calm down and relax.

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Trigger point therapy with a tennis ball!

You may have specific fears about the race

For example one of my worries at every race I go to is being late. I have never been late for a race, so this fear is unfounded. Make sure that you write a plan that covers all eventualities, e.g. what time you will wake up, what you will eat, what you will wear, any equipment that you need etc etc. This will set your mind at rest. Think about your specific fears, is there anything you can do about them? If you can do something to ease those fears then do it. Now is the time to put those fears to rest and have strategies in place to help you cope with race day nerves. I find myself writing lots of lists which helps me cope with my anxiety.

The Titan checklist

You may think you are getting your taper wrong

This is similar to thinking you have not done enough training. Just as there are many different ways of training and racing, there are also many different ways of tapering. Hopefully you have followed a plan that has been designed by someone who has knowledge of endurance sports and is aware of the science and research behind tapering. You may feel like you have tapered for too long or not enough. Put trust in your programme. If you believe that what you are doing is the right thing then you will benefit mentally as well as physically. If you spend your taper worrying if you have got it right you will waste a lot of energy. Let go of your worries it doesn’t matter what others are doing, it matters what you are doing. If you have followed a plan so far don’t deviate from it now or you will risk jeopardising your race. Stick to the plan.

You may feel grumpy and or depressed

You have built up your training to such a level that when you taper you may feel like there is something missing. There may be a gap in your life that you think needs filling. Don’t try to cram more stressful activities into your life now. Relax and enjoy the rest, eat healthily, and enjoy just being. Read in the sunshine or just chill out. Make the most of your spare time by mentally preparing for the race. Fill your head with positive imagery and words. You need to minimise any negative energy. You can do this by repeating a phrase that means something to you, for example “I am the best that I can be”, or by visualising parts of the race course and imagining yourself feeling strong, and enjoying yourself. Smile and remember how lucky you are to be able to do this! 2015-07-09 18.43.44Race day

Remember, on race day everyone will be feeling nervous. Find a way of coping with your nerves, become aware of your breathing, listen to music, whatever gets you through. Once you start you will get in to your rhythm. You have practised for this day 100’s of times during training, and it will all come together. If you can do these things you will have a great race.