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Chrissie Wellington talks mental strength

Chrissie Wellington on… Mental strength

Without discipline, minor mental speed bumps turn into monsters. Beat them with these sage words from a four-time Kona queen

In the privacy of my own room, I sometimes crank out a few tunes. I might dance. I might dance and sing. Bon Jovi’s It’s My Life occasionally makes an appearance, followed by Mariah Carey’s Hero and finished off with Eminem’s Lose Yourself.

What do these classics have in common? They send my mojo skyrocketing. Yes, despite my big, cheesy grin there are times when it’s hard to shift my backside and occasions when I feel immobilised by motivational malaise, lethargy, injury or downright bad luck.

That’s when mental strength matters. Without mental discipline, these minor speed bumps turn into mental monsters. So how do we nurture motivating thoughts and focus on the task at hand? The following are some of my tips to get you going faster than you can say ‘Chariots of Fire’…

One

Have a clear, realistic, yet ambitious goal. It should be written down and posted somewhere visible. Julie Dibens has a photo of Rinny [Mirinda Carfrae] and I in her turbo room to fuel her fire.

It’s also crucial to know why you want to achieve that goal – you must be passionate about it, rather than simply doing something because you feel you ought to. When your motivation wanes, keep the goal at the forefront of your mind and know that each session is a step closer to achieving it.

Two

Create a strategy to give direction, structure and prevent procrastination. The plan should be realistic and tailored to you and your life. It shouldn’t only include the exercise sessions themselves but all aspects of rest and recovery.

Although consistency is key, it’s also important to mix things up every once in a while – it keeps you fresh and stops you getting stuck in a routine rut. Also, create an environment that supports the plan. For example, find a gym, run track or pool that’s convenient and affordable; keep your kit at the office so you can do a quick session in your lunch hour; or bike to work.

Three

Set smaller goals to make the long-term goal seem less overwhelming. These stepping stones can be in the form of difficult training sessions or B races, or you could even split an individual session/race into smaller, more manageable segments.

If you have a big swim workout, say 30 x 100m, just think about getting through the first one, not the next 29. During Kona last year, I got myself through the race by mentally breaking it down into lots of separate stages, whether it be getting to the next swim buoy or aid station, or even just taking one step forward. Giving my brain the reward of having completed these smaller goals created tons of positive momentum.

Four

Use music, movies, poems or inspiring stories. Create a playlist that’s guaranteed to get you jumping, or use my motivation/coaching downloads from AudioFuel. If music doesn’t tickle your triathlon fancy, listen to a podcast or lecture, or read your favourite book/poem; I carry a dog-eared copy of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ with me everywhere.

Watching uplifting movies of others overcoming huge hurdles to achieve their dreams can also ignite your fire. I’m always inspired by Team Hoyt’s I Can video, and a quick peak at Kona DVDs the night before a race never fails to get my blood pumping!

Five

Keep a log of your workouts. Make sure you highlight any accomplishments and successes; note how they make you feel and then celebrate getting past these little milestones. When you’re flagging, look back and recall times when you’ve overcome troubles. If you’ve done it before you can do it again.

Six

Sometimes we need others to help motivate, guide and encourage us. This could be a coach, training partner, your spouse or children, local sports club or even an online forum. Extrinsic motivation can also come from making your intentions public. The next time you’re wavering about a workout, go on Facebook or Twitter and say: “I’m just about to do this session…” This will give you the urge, and accountability, to deliver.

Seven

I’ve waxed lyrical about the importance of training the brain, so you have the mental strength to overcome mojo malaise. First, you need to build confidence so that you truly believe you’re capable of achieving your goal. Second, have a mantra to repeat ad infinitum. Mine is ‘Never, ever give up’. I even write it on my race wristband and my water bottles. Third, spend time on visualisation. Picture yourself strong, confident and successful, and imagine how good it’ll feel to cross the line.

So, next time you’re injured and feeling low, or just can’t get yourself out the door, remember that overcoming those hurdles is going to be the foundation of your success. Now without further ado, tear yourself away from the 220 website and get out there!

How do you get your mojo firing? Let us know in the comments below!

Profile image of Chrissie Wellington Chrissie Wellington Triathlon legend

About

Chrissie Wellington OBE is a retired, British professional triathlete and four-time Ironman world champion. ​ She held all three world and championship records relating to ironman triathlon races: firstly, the overall world record, secondly, the Ironman World Championship course record, and thirdly, the official world record for all Ironman-branded triathlon races over the full Ironman distance. She remains the world record holder for Ironman distance (8:18hrs). Chrissie won the Ironman World Championship in three consecutive years (2007–2009), but could not start the 2010 World Championship race because of illness. She regained the title in 2011. She is the first British athlete to hold the Ironman world title, and was undefeated in all 13 of her races over the Iron distance. She is the only triathlete, male or female, to have won the World Championship less than a year after turning professional, an achievement described by the British Triathlon Federation as "a remarkable feat, deemed to be a near impossible task for any athlete racing as a rookie at their first Ironman World Championships." Since retiring in 2012 Chrissie has completed countless endurance events, from cycling sportives, to marathons and ultra-marathons and even a cross country ski marathon or two! Chrissie was awarded a first-class degree by the University of Birmingham (BsC Geography) in 1998 and a Distinction from the University of Manchester (MA Econ Development Studies) in 2000. ​ Prior to becoming a professional athlete in 2007, she worked for the British Government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) as a policy adviser on international development and also managed water and sanitation projects in Nepal. Chrissie now devotes her life to work to improve individual and population health and wellbeing, and specifically interventions to increase participation in physical activity. She is the Global Lead for Health and Wellbeing for parkrun and is committed to engaging people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities in parkrun events, thereby addressing the entrenched health and wellbeing inequalities that impact many countries across the world. Chrissie published her Sunday Times Best Selling autobiography, 'A Life Without Limits', in 2012, and her second book, 'To the Finish Line: A World Champion Triathlete's Guide to Your Perfect Race', in 2017. In 2021, she co-authored and published two fully-illustrated children's wellbeing storybooks with friend and former athlete Susie Bush-Ramsey entitled 'You're so strong' and 'You're so amazing', as a means of sharing messages about belief, trust, love, friendship, trying your best and embracing change. ​ A trailblazer at heart, Chrissie is often advocating for change. In 2014 she joined three professional cyclists in campaigning for and successfully creating a women’s race at the Tour De France. Chrissie was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours and Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to sport and charity. She was also named the 2009 Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year and has Honorary Doctorates from the University of Birmingham and the University of Bristol. Chrissie lives with her husband, former professional athlete Tom Lowe, and their daughter Esme in a small village in Somerset.