Posted by on May 21, 2014 | No Comments

When I trained to become a professional triathlete I experienced many days of high motivation but also days of low motivation. This motivational roller coaster continued throughout my career. I had to find new ways to motivate myself when there’s no progress or keep training on those days I’d like to stay in bed or to cut the mileage short. Let me assure you that I experienced many motivation letdowns. I managed to conquer most of them fairly quickly but on a few occasion I didn’t. Here are a few tips to avoid mental injuries and burnout in the training process and prior to competition:

  • talk to your coach if you have one! Be honest. Communicate communicate communicate.
  • IF in doubt remain conservative. Cut back mileage.
  • Take another recovery day. Why not? It won’t hurt but help you to feel better.
  • Change training locations and exercise in areas that give you lots of positive energy. BIG SMILE!!
  • Meet up for a social run or cycling ride with friends. Stop and take in the scenery. Have a coffee break and LAUGH!
  • Maybe you have set yourself too ambitious goals. Reevaluate. Use your coach to do so and perhaps find a new goal or event and adjust your training schedule accordingly.
  • Target races should be motivating and make you excited. Select a destination that gives you goosebumps!

I like to say to all my coached  athletes that the athlete’s mind & body is shaped during the preparation. The race itself is the cherry on the cake and a celebration of all the hard work and sacrifices that went into it. It’s the relentless training day in day out that creates opportunities to become more experienced and allows us to apply new motivational skills to overcoming discomfort, negative self-talk and self-doubts. I always knew that I had to push myself outside my comfort zones at least 1 or 2 times, every week, to refine my mental toughness.

What did I do for continuing tough & long training days and races? What were my tricks?

Here are a few tricks that might help you, too:

  • Stay in the moment. Do not look to far ahead.
  • Focus on your breathing.
  • Reduce speed and give your body and mind a break.
  • Break up the training workout or race into segments.
  • Derive positive energy from the environment.
  • The power of positive thinking can pull you through difficult situation.
  • In a race use the athlete in front of you as a pacemaker.
  • Use intervals breaks, food/coffee/water-stations as a motivation. It’s that simple!
  • Set yourself realistic targets. Goals should still remain challenging but not become unachievable.
  • Use a mantra (words, numbers or phrases) which helped me to open up a path into a positive mental state almost trance like state (=state of excellence).
  • Have a workout plan and devise a race strategy. Be prepare and have several plans in your pocket if one doesn’t work out pull out another one. Usually, things don’t go according to plan in an Ironman or Marathon for example. Be mentally prepared to counter a difficult situation and set yourself a series of meaningful goals in the event you have to abandon your original race goal or workout goal. Finish Men (165)

You should know why you are putting yourself through an Ironman or Marathon.

Have a clear mission in your head.

I suggest to write it down on a piece of paper and to stick it against a wall, a door or the fridge. Use a place where you can see it everyday! Attach an image of yourself atop that creates instantly positive memories and affirmations in your brain when you look at it.

I remember that in 1996 I bought a triathlon magazine and  I used the image
of a winning athlete crossing the finishing line with a victory pose.

I, then, took a old picture of myself, cut off the head and put  it over the athlete’s head. For me it was a powerful picture I would deliberately look at everyday multiple times. It worked for me!

I ended up celebrating a break-through season as a Olympic Distance Specialist. I won over 8 races (incl. the Bavarian State Championships (which is a huge title) and finished in the top 10 of Germany’s best triathletes!!

Additionally, if I may point out, when you look at all my finishing race pictures you will notice that I always finish with my arms up in the air.

My brain totally adopted the image  for all eternity and YOU CAN DO EXACTLY THE SAME. BELIEVE ME!!!

Stay motivated in your next race!
Good luck and happy training.

Torsten Abel





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