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2009-02-25 9:15 AM

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Subject: Mental Toughness - What do you do?

I attended a triathlon seminar last night on training the mind for racing.  Not to completely rip off the ideas and concepts of the seminar, but there were two main techniques I walked away with for pushing through the tough parts of my workouts.  I'm building up to a HIM in August, and as my workouts get longer and my endurance builds I was curious to see what techniques people use when the mind is saying "what the heck are you doing?"

 Visualization:  v.  To form a mental image of; envisage:

 ex:  Visualize your transitions, what can I do differently?  Visualize crossing the finish line.  Visualize scenery of your most memorable rides.

 Affirmation:  n.  Something declared to be true; a positive statement or judgment.

 ex:  Not "I will...," but "I do..."  I AM a strong swimmer.  I AM going to finish this 10 mile run.  I AM a triathlete.

 

What other techniques do you use when you're on mile 80 of a century?  What techniques do you use when you hit mile 20 of a marathon?  (Note:  Substitute in other distances, these are just examples)

 

As a side note,  I saw a post of ST that I thought was really interesting, the 5 focus areas of triathlon were:  1.  S/B/R, 2.  Mental Preparation, 3.  Nutrition, 4.  Gear, and 5.  Recovery (I think, I'm not sure I haven't been able to find the post again).  It's so much more than just HTFU, being prepared both physically and mentally for both training and races is the key to success at any level.



2009-02-25 9:22 AM
in reply to: #1980926

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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?
I understand a lot of those ideas but don't use any of them. At least in the terms they choose to use for them.

"In order to complete my goal" of HIM, century ride, whatever, "I must do ..." whatever it is I'm doing. Once that's been established, it's all in execution of the task required. Work through? Tough parts? No, there is working towards a goal and there is failing to meet your goal. If you perform the required steps, you will meet your goal.
2009-02-25 9:23 AM
in reply to: #1980926

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Elite
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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?

x2 and great post.

Too often people skip the mental training. I've taught martial arts for a long time, and I use visualization both in classes and in tournament prep.  I've actually done the visualization thing since I was about 14, in swimming and then other sports. It really, really, really helps.

To quote a person from another board, HUGE.

John 

2009-02-25 9:29 AM
in reply to: #1980926

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Master
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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?

I use affirmation (but didn't realize it though until I saw this post!) when I hit a rough spot.  I can be feeling like crap, but most of the time I'm able to "talk" myself out of it.   It's a weird feeling, like my legs take over.  Kind of hard to describe. 

I've had coaches in other sports that would try and get us to use visualization, but that never really worked for me.  

2009-02-25 9:31 AM
in reply to: #1980926

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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?

I do specific workouts to engender mental toughness. Namely, long trainer rides and nutritionless long runs. If I can take the boredom of perching myself on my trainer for 3 hours, then 6 hour rides outside are cake.

If I can get though two hour runs without food or water, I can handle the physical suffering I encounter when I race long with proper nutrition.

2009-02-25 9:33 AM
in reply to: #1980926

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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?

Exactly!  We had a course at work a few years ago that dealt with affirmations and visualization and I can tell you IT WORKS! 

What people need to understand is that it works both ways.  Visualizing the successful finish of that "A" race can get you through the dark spots in the training.  Similarly, guess what happens when you go into a workout thinking "This is gonna be miserable..."  Yup, your expectation is often confirmed. 

I use this especially when encouraging new swimmers.  Imagine what that perfect swim looks like.  Smooth, effortless, gliding across the mirror-like water of a perfectly calm lake.  Now swim it (even if you're in a pool).  Now visualize that same swim, but there are little ripples on the water from a light breeze.  Now picture swimming with that same smooth, effortless glide with swells lifting you rhythmically.  Now, come race day, you're pretty much ready for anything (except for maybe getting kicked in the face). 

I tell frustrated swimmers to get the right mental image before they hit the pool.  If you cannot maintain that visualization of a "good swim" for 5-10 minutes, don't even exit the lockerroom. 



2009-02-25 9:34 AM
in reply to: #1980926

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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?

For mental toughness, I make myself finish a workout by telling myself that I will toe the starting line looking back at my training knowing that I did all that I could to prepare myself for a great day.

It is from there, however, that I don't do anything during the day but race the race I can that particular day.  I may look at HR and pace but I set no goals, no expectations for the entire race.

Shoot, I do not even predict or calcuate splits pre-race ... nothing but bad ju-ju for me there.

 

2009-02-25 9:35 AM
in reply to: #1980926

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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?

Use and chose your words carefully!  Words are the most powerful creative (and destructive) force in the universe.  What we continue to say, eventually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Speak to yourself with words of encouragement. 

Some of my favorite words that I encourage myself with are:  I CAN do this.  What one man can do, another can do.  I am strong.  I am tough.  Pain don't hurt. (stole that from Roadhouse)  Piece of cake.  A body in motion tends to stay in motion. (stole that from Newton)  "Quit" just in guys like me.

~Mike

2009-02-25 9:39 AM
in reply to: #1980926

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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?
strostertag - 2009-02-25 8:15 AM
What other techniques do you use when you're on mile 80 of a century? 


I do three things.

First, even though I train in miles, in a race or time trial effort I think in minutes. Eg. To me, "two miles left" at the end of a run seems much longer and harder than "only 15 minutes to go".

Second, I always think in the moment. Rather than thinking, "I'm hurting. How am I going to run those last two miles?", I think, "Right now, I'm not dying (literally). I'm OK. I'll slow down later if I need to."

Lastly, if I'm really hurting I'll make stupid deals with myself, "Just run to that tree and you can slow down.".

IMO, the mental aspect of this sport is extremely important. I believe that the mind generally protects the body by not allowing it to push too hard. You have to teach your mind that it's OK to push at harder, faster efforts.
2009-02-25 10:23 AM
in reply to: #1981006

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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?

I have never been conscious of any intentional effort to stay tough or motivated.  I tend to just "do".  I like the feeling of pushing myself, and since I have a goal of races, my workouts are what I "have" to do in my day.  Just like any other task...

However, now that you mention it.  I have always been a big visualizer.  I do in naturally, almost to the point of compulsion.  I analize and picture myself doing everything fast.  I picture how I will handle potential problems, etc...  I have always been very cerebral like that.  I analytical thinker.  Probably explains my profession.

2009-02-25 10:38 AM
in reply to: #1980926

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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?

Great post.

I also force myself to do the hard workouts. For running I string 3 days together getting progressively longer miles 6 then 9 then 12 miles. I also do this without food or water and try to beat my last weeks times. Sometimes you do and sometimes you don't, but the goal is always to finish the 12 mile run. I also do 3 - 4 hour trainer rides to train the brain. I find these sessions to be helpful to practice visualization techniques. I have my favorite ride a 50 mile loop in the 1000 Islands where the halfway point is a lap around a lighthouse where the St. Lawrence river meets Lake Ontario. I have taken several people on this ride and everyone has commented that it is their favorite ride. I can get myself there very easily now and I think it comes with practice. Just writing this took me there. 

chevy57 

 



2009-02-25 11:20 AM
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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?

 Besides the mental toughness of long trainer rides, tough workouts and brutal weather conditions can build and some of the visualization of the perfect swim stroke, even pedal stroke and nice run cadence I tend to think of others.

While enduring some discomfort and alone time (I was pretty much alone for the last 4 or 5 miles) towards the end of my first ever marathon which was a trail mary with quite a few hills, I kept thinking of one of the 50 miler guys I was chatting with earlier in the day and the discussion we had about his wife being a breast cancer survivor and how she was out on the same course doing her first ever 50 miler.  Seemed to bring out some inner strength for lack of a better term.

For my first ever IM this fall I'm sure I'll have her among others in my mind, not to mention thinking about Blazeman and his triumphant finish at Kona.  I'm sure I'll watch the videos on him before race day.  I just find what he did really inspiring as I've delt with other folks who have been stricken with ALS and know how devastating of a disease it is.

 



Edited by rottieguy 2009-02-25 11:23 AM
2009-02-25 11:41 AM
in reply to: #1980926

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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?
Wow this thread is very interesting, i find myself doing things like the ones mentioned before without realizing it. I think its just part of the human spirit to keep going and fight, some can do it some just dont try. I personally believe i've hit a mental block in my training and im trying to overcome it,I used to get bad back pains on the bike so i've strengthen my core and fixed my postion and it has helped, but in the back of my mind there's always the thought of "damn i hope dont get backpains" anyhow very good thread.
2009-02-25 12:21 PM
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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?

Nice topic for a thread!

I do tend to visualize naturally, most especially if I'm toward the end of one workout, visualizing how enjoyable it'll be to get to the run/swim/bike after this, and what it'll look like.

I have noticed that semantics plays a great role in my thinking. I had to notice 'cause I have a toddler and verbal implantation is instantaneous...i.e. "You don't want the cracker?" she doesn't register a question, she only hears that she doesn't want the cracker. 

Speaking in the positive is a practicable habit. 

Saying what I DO want, what I WILL do, what I CAN do, makes a big difference convesationally and peptalking myself with training.

2009-02-25 12:27 PM
in reply to: #1980926

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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?

I've been known to chant a little mantra in my head. Something positive and repetitive. The most recent ones were "Just one foot in front of the other... and you will eventually get there" (to the beat of my footsteps) or "You are so good at this! You can run forever!"

It helps me, too, to think about the longest/hardest workout I've had in the sport I'm doing. For example, now that I've done a 20-mile run in 15-degree cold weather, I literally feel like I can do ANY run. When I'm struggling, I think back to that run, that day, how I felt... and since I know I've been there before, I know I can do it again.

 

2009-02-25 12:35 PM
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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?

I think it's obvious to most of us here that this extends way beyond figuring out how to convince ourselves to finish the course...

This is basic life stuff...  I know several people who ONLY deal with the negatives, and for their entire life they have talked themselves into being miserable.  I AM unhappy... I DONT like that person... I AM neglected/picked on/unfortunate... I CANT do it... WAH! Cry

I think that's why I like this place so much... there's a bunch of people here who are out there trying and succeeding - it's contagious! Laughing

 

 



2009-02-25 12:41 PM
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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?

I think the best mental prepartion comes from physical preparation.  It is very difficult to escape what your mind knows when you show up to race.  Either you have put in the work or not.  Much of the mental toughness comes from either racing in preparation or through very race specific preparation.  In the process you learn to concentrate through it.  I like to know that I have been there before and that the pain I am feeling is what I am supposed to feel.  If I don't feel it, then I am not putting it out and frankly I know I will be dissappointed in myself regardless of the time if I don't put it out. 

I do the self talk, but one thing I like about endurance sports - there is no faking it.  Do you give in, do you perservere?  Only you ever know that answer.  Then there is the finish line, a damn that hurt, wow glad that is over, can't wait to do it again (of course only after basking in the warm glow of accomplishment for a few weeks).    

2009-02-25 12:44 PM
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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?
Beat me to the punch... I don't normally post much on forums - prefer to take it all in for my own consumption. The mental preparation needed to do the things we do is practiced CONSTANTLY. Frustrations at work / home / school, bad traffic days, dealing with kids, etc. all provide opportunities to focus first on what is needed to get through it. Improvement comes later.

Kind of like progressive training - tough it out now, it will be easier next time.

I can definitely see it in dealing with my daughters. It's perspective on the moment at hand...
2009-02-25 12:45 PM
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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?

I <3 this topic. 

2009-02-25 1:15 PM
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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?

I think Nike had it right so many years ago, "Just do it."  The more you think about how difficult something is or how tired you are or how much you hurt, the more likely you are to realize that you should slow down or stop and eventually decay into nothing.  Stfu and do it, stop thinking.  Affirmation and visualization are along these same lines of turning your natural tendency into avoiding discomfort into something positive.

I also tend to remind myself of the most painful or trying times I've ever been through.  Like the time I bruised, and nearly burst, my spleen and liver.  That hurt pretty bad and it was far worse than anything I will ever put myself through on purpose.  Then think about how long that memory is... 15 seconds maybe?  And then it's over.  The point is realizing that it may hurt now, but later on in life it will be a short, short memory that can be covered in about two sentences, but I'll be a better person for the rest of my life because of it.

I try to remember that the little victories eventually snowball into big ones, this is a form of visualizing.  Monday I had the hardest run of my very short newbie running career (I'm training for my first sprint), and I kept telling myself on the hard intervals, "One more minute til I'm an Ironman", "Fifteen seconds til I'm an Ironman."  I have no goals of running an Ironman right now (I'm really just hoping I don't die during this first sprint) but it's representative of becoming something far bigger and better than I currently am, and I realize that these little victories are what will get me there.

2009-02-25 1:41 PM
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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?

when im running i always remember an article i read a while ago. It basically explained the mechanics of running. When you run its not about pushing off but instead its a rotation, and thats what the body should be doing. I just repeat it to myself when im hurting bad "This is what the body is suppose to do" and it usually gets me through that bad phase.



2009-02-25 2:26 PM
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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?
I make it personal. I break the miles down and assign them to my children. At the start of each mile I say to myself, "this mile is for Kate Elizabeth. think about all the reasons you love Kate and give 100% effort for her". The next mile I do the same thing but use a different child. I have 4 kids and a wife so that makes 5 miles or if I am on a bike I will use 10 minute segments. As I write this, I am realizing how extremely corny it sounds, but it really works for me!
2009-02-25 2:40 PM
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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?

In my first marathon my mantra was very similar to Lisac's ... i had hit the wall after feeling great for 30k. I wanted to stop, eat all the hot dogs at a vendor I passed and then curl up in the gutter to evade the complete exhaustion i was experiencing.  I really wanted to walk and quit. But i told myself "if you run you'll get there sooner" - then i could have all the food i wanted and finally lay down. It worked. I took a couple of walks but I got through.  In another marathon I made a deal with myself after that elusive 30k mark. I could take a quick walk after each 2k.  I did that and set a pb despite the fact I wanted to go lay in the grass at a few points.

In training i often break it down. If it's a route I am familiar with i break that into segments and promise to get through that part and then do what I need to do. Usually I am able to continue so i trick myself a bit.  Then there's always the countdown. On a big double digit run, my RP and i will note when we've got single digits left because less than 10k and we're done! (thankfully I use kms). Even with the cruddy weather, my RP and I will look at each other like we're both nuts for wanting to do this and we make a deal to go so far and if we're not feeling it then we can head home. But we've never ever bailed.  

But there's a big part of me that just is quiet and completely focused on the task at hand. There's no negative or positive self-talk.

 

2009-02-25 2:59 PM
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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?
I think a lot of mental toughness is simply the realization that your body can endure much more than you think it can, and that your actual limit lies a little beyond the point where you body tells you that it’s had enough.

I used to box a little, and my trainer always used to say that your body was just like the gas gauge on your car—even when it says “E” there’s always a little more in there.
2009-02-25 3:22 PM
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Subject: RE: Mental Toughness - What do you do?

I use some visualization with a mantra too.

My stand-by is "Power Through". When it gets tough I imagine busting through a brick wall and through the other side. I can actually see the bricks flying around me... glycogen depletion maybe?

I have an "affirmation" too: You are so hardcore! This always makes me smile in spite of the hard effort probably because I absolutely do NOT consider myself to be hardcore and it reminds me to enjoy the moment even if there is some discomfort mentally or physically.

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