Motivation is something that a lot of triathletes will admit to struggling with. It’s easy to imagine remaining motivated in theory, but one of the main pitfalls of sport is facing defeat and failure and this, in turn, can have a massive impact on the ways in which you find yourself losing motivation.
Feeling motivated and mentally prepared for a race is key. If you’re feeling unmotivated, you’ll struggle with reaching your performance targets.
Self-confidence is essential when training and racing and is crucial for good performance. Athletes thrive on high levels of confidence and nothing beats the emotional rollercoaster of race day. The line between success and failure is very thin, and the margins are quite fine. Success is self-perceived, as is failure, so it’s important to train with confidence, race with confidence and finish with confidence. It’s important for triathletes to recognise that self-confidence levels can fluctuate over time and that everyone experiences bouts of low self-esteem and low confidence. This blog identifies 10 key steps in raising and maintaining your self-confidence and motivation, and how not to fall into the dreaded struggle-zone.
- Remember that even if you don’t believe in yourself or your abilities, someone else does. Be this a coach, manager, fellow athletes or a family member. They will have more belief in you than what you think is possible. When feeling a bit low, there’s nothing wrong with asking them for a bit of validation or reassurance.
- Think positively at all times. Positivity is something that can often be overlooked, and it's important to remain positive no matter your training or racing situation. Positivity can be developed by assessing each of your training and competition sessions. Assess how you’ve performed and take positive away from it. Thinking positively leads to a better mindset and body balance. Positive thinking enables the neural pathways in your brain to operate with clarity and purpose.
- Understand that although sometimes success seems far away, it’s achievable. Embark on each task as a champion, by having a clear and defined plan. Achieve your tasks step by step. Don’t take on a massive task and expect to achieve it straight away, or quickly. Have patience and believe in yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your confidence be.
- Stay in control of the controllable. Controlling the controllable builds self-confidence because it provides you with a sense of focus. Remember that you simply cannot control what others are doing, saying or thinking, but you can absolutely control what you are achieving. There is a range of variables within training/racing that can lead to loss of sight of the controllable. Negative external factors and influences will only hinder performance and must be beaten.
- Mental preparation is just as crucial as physical preparation. You should work on encouraging yourself on each task you undertake. Mental preparation can manifest in many forms, including; mindfulness, imagery, reflective thinking, positive self-talk, goal setting, meditation and concentration training, among others. You should find a strategy that works best for you, and then use this strategy to provide you with an inner desire to build confidence. There has been plenty of evidence within elite sports of the use of mental preparation. Mental preparation is useful as it can massively support the levels of self-confidence you need to perform well.
- Recall previous success. Think about previous successes you’ve had. What did they feel like? What were your emotions like during that time? How confident did they make you feel? Recall is a positive mechanism used to build on your self-confidence.
- Performance must be consistent. Successful triathletes build confidence because they are consistent and appreciate the value of success. Consistency is like a habit that is formed through experience of situations. In other words, the more you do the better you become at the task in hand. Elite Athletes will work hard and do whatever to achieve their ultimate aim.
- Be constructive in your own self-evaluation. Through self-evaluation one can become more effective at building self-confidence. Building your own level of evaluation will enable you to become critical. But it also enables you to build on this critique to create higher levels of confidence. Alex Ferguson suggested that he learnt more from losing than he did through success. This is true of most successful performers as they use defeat, steps backwards and rejection to fuel the fire to come back stronger.
- Continuously set short-term goals. Most triathletes suffer from low self-confidence because they allow the issue(s) to prolong and, as a consequence, fail to deal with problems head-on. To overcome these issues, set short-term goals that will enable the flow of confidence (no matter how small) to start. Through constantly achieving your short-term goals, you will build your levels of self-confidence greatly. Short-term goals should be related to processes that can be achieved.
- Respect yourself and don’t be too harsh on your own performances. Life is about trial and error. Triathletes should learn from the many challenges that they face. However, you must not be too harsh on yourself and should take regular breaks when needed. You should eat well, sleep well and should respect your mind and body. It is through respect that athletes can learn to rebuild confidence.
There’s not really anything tougher than being on a long run and finding that your body isn’t co-operating and you’re begging yourself to stop. Remember the above steps and implement them so you can work towards reaching your goals. There are days where you won’t want to train and on these days it's important to get out and train, even if just for 10 minutes. You’ll find that most days, you’ll want to turn those 10 minutes into a full session. It’s all about taking that first step out the door.
Written by Zone3 Ambassador Yiannis Christodoulou