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Mind over Matter

February 1, 2012

Endurance sports are unique in that they test your mental fortitude and toughness more than other sports.  That is not to say they are tougher than others, but personally I think Ironman athletes are the fittest and some of the most gifted.  No other sport pushes your body and mind to the limits and beyond like triathlon cycling has always been in the debate).  I think that is a big portion of the appeal of the sport.  When someone first gets into the sport, trying longer distances may seem daunting, but there is such a sense of accomplishment in finishing something that you never thought possible.  To push yourself harder and to dig deeper than you ever thought.  Doing this will liberate yourself athletically, but also make other tasks seem much more manageable and help you control different aspects of your life.  There is a reason triathlon is one of the fastest growing sports in the country; camaradarie, accomplishment, health and breaking down barriers.

One thing I always tell people is that your body is tougher than you mind (unless you train both aspects).  In this sense, I think your mind will give up 100 times over before your body will.  For example, when you are out running would you ever stop before your mind starts questioning itself or you begin to negotiate with yourself?  This is one of the biggest hurdles to triathlon or endurance sports.  I know there are times that I will be out riding and want to quit or convince myself today is not a good day and rest instead of train.  Swimming is the worst for me as it is my weakest discipline so I have to make myself get to the pool and once there work to finish my full workout.  Sometimes I want to cut out a few hundred at the end when I am tired.  This is what separates us from “weekend warriors”.  They do not train their mind and will be the first to stop when it gets tough.    Triathlon brings out the best in every athlete from the ordinary to the extraordinary.  Over 1.4 million people compete in triathlons in the US each year, but that is a small percentage of the overall population. Most give up before they even attempt to train for a race saying, “I could never do that”.  That is part of why triathlon is so inspiring- remember Chrissie Wellington started training so she could lose a few pounds, now she is the greatest woman triathlete in the history of the sport.  No one knows their limitations until they have been tested.

There will always be days when you want to quit or cut it short. Remember triathlon is a journey and the path should be as rich as the race itself. You are preparing to do something that less than 1% of the population try and you will benefit in all aspects of life. Many of us train the four disciplines (4th being transitions), but rarely do people work the mental fitness portion of the race, the part that wills you across the line. Tomorrow USAT is doing a webinar on mental fitness at 4:00 MST (webinar-mental-fitness.aspx). The cost is $24.99 for USAT members, a small price to pay to work on your weakest discipline. $24.99 is the cost of a pair of Aqua Sphere goggles. How much money do we spend on training? Complete the athlete, whether you log in to the webinar or spend time each week focusing on the mental aspects of triathlon. You won’t be disappointed on race day.

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