With the spring, race season is upon us and I love to race. I’m not super fast and I’m not likely to win much this season but I still love it. When the gun goes off you get to see what you are made of. This year I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading and discussing mental toughness with people and other coaches and I absolutely love it. Training is workouts, but racing is always 100% mental.
My buddy PatO and I were talking about racing/mentality this past weekend. He’s a much better athlete than I but I always race him well. I mentioned that when we race I always believed I could beat him regardless of what my fitness was and what the times said. Belief + moderate fitness trumps great fitness and doubt every single time.
It sounds like such a cliche but “believing you can” on race day is an incredibly powerful tool. It creates a calm which helps remind us to be patient which leads me to even more calm.
Belief clears the way for you to remember that you chose to put yourself in this particular level of discomfort. You chose the pain. Now disregard it.
There’s tons of layers and strategies to this idea of “mental toughness,” and very few of them are what people who have problems with race execution think they are. It’s way less of meeting an obstacle and overcoming it and a lot more of not even considering the obstacle.
Belief leads to another simplifying idea for me when racing. When I believe I have a shot, I accept where I am. Acceptance again has a calming effect. It removes any doubt if what you’re there to accomplish. It’s a “that’s what you ordered” situation.
In 1990, I coached swimming and part of that coaching involved teaching private swimming lessons. That summer I had a 5-6 year old named Dennis who was as his named implied, an actual “menace.” One day I had him swimming out from the wall to me and I would move back a little further after he put his head under. After 2-3 times of this, he came up sputtering and choking. I grabbed him and helped him up. He leaned back and kicked me in the face and said “that’s what you ordered.” It has long been a mantra for me and those I coach. YOU CHOSE TO BE HERE. THE SOONER YOU ACCEPT THAT. THE SOONER YOU’LL BE ABLE TO OPEN YOURSELF TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITIES!
Yes. I’m yelling.
More believing = more performing.