You can do all the swim, bike and run sessions in the world, but if you're not mentally prepared for prepared for race day, there's no guarantee for success. Get your head in the game with top tips from professional off-road triathletes Ben Allen and Jacqui Slack.
Mental training is absolutely crucial to success on race day. It’s what makes all the difference to your performance, as self-belief in what you have done is the most important component in a training program.
Your mental preparation starts well before you take your mark at the edge of the water. The wheels begin to turn when you make the decision to register for a race and you set your goal to strive for; whether that’s to finish your first race, win your age group or win overall. This helps determine your plan of attack for training in the lead-up to the race. Having belief in your training plan of attack and your preparation, to ultimately achieve your goal, stems from a positive frame of mind.
Once you have a training plan that you believe in, the next step of mental training is visualising how the race is going to unfold during hard sessions. You should visualise on that last hard effort, when everything wants to give in, that it’s the last kilometre of the race. Push yourself, start hurting and reap the rewards on race day. Essentially, you want to be used to this pain. You don’t want anything in the race to feel beyond what you have previously experienced. Some things to practise are keeping your cool so you can perform under pressure, and controlling both your breathing and mind.
Now it’s only a few days before the race, nerves are kicking in. You start doubting and questioning everything: ‘I’m not ready for this’, ‘that open water swim is starting to freak me out’, ‘what have I got myself into?’ Instead of panicking, use this energy to your advantage – it’s normal to encounter a few pre-race jitters. Just talk your way through it and back your preparation.
Race day – this is where the fun starts. Your nerves are sky-high, you have that butterfly feeling in your stomach and you start doubting everything you know about the sport. Have a plan and a routine in place to combat this. A plan that includes what you’re going to do before the race. Give yourself a bit of ‘me time’ to reassure yourself of your preparation and the hours of training undertaken to get to this stage. And finally, think about pushing your body and what it’s going to feel like when you’re hurting. Be mentally ready to push through those physical and mental barriers that appear at the pointy end of a race.
Now walk toward the start line, have a look around and you’ll notice everyone battling the exact same nervous and excited feelings that you are confronting. Compose your thoughts, listen for the starter’s gun and know that you’re ready for this and it’s going to be everything you dreamed it would be.