Sports psychology for triathletes: 11 tips for improving your mental strength
Honing your tri mindset is an underrated – yet invaluable – tool for improving your swim/bike/run performance. Here are the world-beating athlete and coach Siri Lindley’s top sport psychology tips…
1 FOCUS ON YOU
Remember, your biggest competitor is yourself. If you’re in the pool and you’re the slowest in your lane, don’t hone in on that. Focus on the fact you’re 5secs faster than before. Your goal should be about being better than yesterday.
2 SESSION BREAKDOWN
Demotivation can strike all abilities at any time. So keep things interesting. Instead of doing 2hrs on a turbo trainer, add in big-gear 15sec sprints. Bear in mind that it’ll pay off in six-months’ time at the races.
3 MIX IT UP
Often it’s good to follow the same bike and run routes so you have a measure of progress. But at this time of year (spring), I’ll give my athletes a variety of different routes to keep things fresh. Tools like Google Maps can be invaluable here.
4 WINTER BREAK
When you feel stale and let a lot of days and weeks go by, that can dissolve your passion for the sport. I’d rather you took two weeks off from the sport so you’re hungry to come back.
5 FOLLOW THE BROWNLEES
I love the idea of the Brownlee brothers fell racing, and that’s how it should be. One of my athletes, Susan Williams, won bronze in Athens after spending the winter snowshoeing instead of running. Physically it’s great, but it also refreshes your mind.
6 DIG DEEP
Pain tolerance is vital. When I was an athlete and worked with Brett Sutton, he kept saying I wasn’t going hard enough. So I opened my mind, dug deeper and it paid off. There’s a quote, ‘Everything great is just beyond your comfort zone.’ When you’re doing intervals, just try and hold a rep for 5-10secs longer than normal. See that pain as a friend.
7 DATA CAP
Tools like Garmins are useful but only use 25% of the time as they’ll hold you back. I’ve tested my athletes and they’ve said they’d completed a great session and hit certain figures. So I’d say do it again but turn off the screen. Nearly every time the figures coming back are significantly higher. Sometimes, data can be a limiter.
8 BODY AUDIT
Have technical cues to ease the pain. Don’t think about tiredness, think shoulders back, quick feet, chest forward… Proactive thinking is as positive as positive thinking.
9 POSITIVE AFFIRMATION
My athletes swear by positive mindset. When I was in pain, it was, ‘Great, I’m exactly where I need to be’. This is what it feels like to go fast. If I was in a race and I wasn’t hurting, I knew I was having a bad race.
10 VISUALISE DEFECTION
Visualisation is good but don’t just focus on the perfect race. In the actual race, if something goes wrong you won’t be prepared. So visualise things like your goggles coming off or struggling to get out of your wetsuit… and visualise what you’ll do to overcome them.
11 COME BACK STRONGER
Don’t beat yourself up if you’re ill and have to miss a week or two of activity – it happens. When returning to training, suppress your ego and don’t overdo it. Give yourself an easy week to regain that triathlon feeling.