As the head coach of the club we celebrate it’s success of all the new athletes joining, and the existing members testing their fitness gained from all the hard winters training recently at Clumber Park, we came away with not only two new GBR athletes, other members obtained new personal bests as-well as valuable feedback given from their first test of the season. Unfortunately for me, the day didn’t go as well as I would of liked as a mechanical issue forced me out of the race, but I will not let this knock me back in slightest, as one thing I have learned over the years is to always take the positives from the negatives, and well that is racing I guess.
Firstly my first 10k run was 1:45 quicker than the previous year, secondly my average speed on the bike was up by 4 kph up until the puncture, but most importantly my confidence in myself as an athlete has grown tremendously. This same race last year really brought out some dark thoughts during the cycle leg, often considering to quit due to myself pushing so hard my body was telling me to stop. However during my time at university I have researched that in sport there is an increasing awareness of how important psychological factors are within athletic performance and it is now being recognised that physical talent is not the only component which leads to success.
Within the sports science community, mental toughness is regarded as one of most important attributes that will lead to a successful athletic performance. Even at the highest of levels it is often the mental toughness that separates the elite performance from the good performance. Mental toughness is having the natural or developed psychological edge that that enables an athlete to generally cope better with the physiological pain during an event, or even coping better with environmental factors like cold and wet weather, or even opponents and crowd.
So how do you build mental toughness? One method which I taught our junior elite is positive self-talk. Self-talk can have a great impact on your confidence. There is a few ways you can develop better self-talk, which can be as simple as listening to what you’re saying to yourself each day. If I convince myself I am a good athlete, then I will perform like a good athlete. Question yourself, obtain feedback, I was good last time I raced I will be good now. My team mate said I’m looking strong, I must be performing well, and therefore I am going to perform well. Be confident about what you are doing, but don’t be cocky. There is always somebody better than you, unless you are Javier Gomez or Gwen Jorgansen, but even sometimes the giants get slayed, just look at Leicester city football club, proof that self-belief and mental imagery improve your game.
Mental imagery is another great motivational tool, mental imagery is exactly what it says on the tin. Imagine things, imagine the finish line. Whilst swimming in the lake or pool imagine the transition and what actions to take first. Map out what you have mastered and become a master of it. Imagine you’re going to finish the race and achieve your goals, imagine yourself on that podium, imagine yourself in that Great Britain kit and make your dreams happen. Imagine yourself in a bright orange onesie riding a straw donkey to the supermarket to buy a coconut to make some horse clippety clop noises. Imagine anything other than been slow, rubbish, in pain or losing the race. Last Saturday I was flying, well up until the puncture that was, and that performance was fuelled by self-belief, confidence, and most importantly a llama skipping with a dinosaur dressed up in a batman outfit.
Yours in health, Coach Craig.