The focus of training and racing within endurance sports primarily focuses around the physical aspect.
There is often so much of a focus on physical performance that the psychological element of training and racing gets left out of the conversation.
Some athletes just have more passion for their sport than others. This isn’t good or bad but rather a reality. I’m sure we all know athletes that train in all weather conditions and are genuinely psyched all time time to go train. Conversely, other athletes might ‘like’ their sport but if a rain cloud appears in the sky, they call off the workout and binge on Netflix instead. It’s likely that most of us fall somewhere in between the two.
Whether its passion or something else, some athletes can seemingly train forever without ever having a dip in enthusiasm while others need a mental break after just a few days or weeks of hard training.
Second Is The First Place Loser
Endurance sports seems to attract a lot of type A personalities. A lot of these individuals place a huge emphasis on quantitative goals such as placings and times. More specifically, I’ve worked with more clients than I care to admit who view winning a race (or their age-category) as the only acceptable outcome.
While it is fine have quantitative goals, if an athlete only cares about winning, their tenure within their sport likely won’t last very long.
Focus / Diligence
OK, show of hands… how many of you have had something on your training program that you blew off? Maybe it was strides at the end of a long run or foam rolling after that hard interval workout. Come hell or high water, some athletes will do every little thing on their program while others will view some (or a lot) of their program as ‘optional.’ Again, I’m guessing that most of us would fall somewhere between the two.
Throughout a race, there will likely be at least one or more times when an athlete will feel like giving up. Whether it be fatigue, weather conditions, discomfort or pain, mental toughness is what keeps an athlete in the game and on track. While some athletes will naturally be more ‘mentally tough’ than others, to a large degree, mental toughness is developed in training.
We’ve all had craptacular workouts, gotten sick/injured and had work and family obligations that interfere with our training. Some athletes go into a tizzy, throw their hands up and call it a day when they encounter obstacles like these while others are trying to figure out a way to rig their bike so that they can pedal with just one leg so that their broken leg won’t get in the way (this is a true story!).
The point of this post is to bring attention to areas that pertain to one’s psychology that are just as critical to performance as the physical aspect. These areas are not mentioned just in respect to performance, but to one’s longevity within a sport.
Rick Prince is the founder/director of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA), a science-based endurance sports education company. UESCA educates and certifies running and triathlon coaches (cycling and ultrarunning coming soon!) worldwide on a 100% online platform.
Click here to download the UESCA Triathlon Course Overview/Syllabus
Click here to download the UESCA Running Course Overview/Syllabus