The life of an endurance athlete is not easy…
Cross country runners, marathoners, swimmers and triathletes face unique challenges that come with being a competitive endurance athlete.
Endurance athletes have to wade through long hours of training, fatigue, strained social life, injuries, aches, pains and injuries.
As if those physical challenges were not enough, endurance athletes have to navigate through a great deal of mental stress such as:
- high expectations
- fear of failure
- pre-race apprehension
- post-race regret
- mental burnout
- not running mid-season PRs
- pressure to outperform rivals
Being a successful endurance athlete requires more than mastering a body of water or road course, success requires mastering one’s own mind.
In the book, “How Bad Do You Want It? Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle,” Matt Fitzgerald examined the relationship between mind and body and the importance of a strong mental game for endurance athletes.
FITZGERALD: “In a race, the job of the muscles is to perform. The job of the mind is to cope. But here’s the hitch: The muscles can only perform to the degree that the mind is able to cope. Endurance sports are therefore a game of ‘mind over muscle.’ It is not possible to succeed at the highest level of any major endurance sport with a B+ mental game. No athlete, no matter how talented, can win on the international stage today without harnessing the full power of his mind to maximize both the amount of effort he is able to give and the amount of performance he gets out of his best effort.”
Coping strategies are a way of reducing stress levels in order for an athlete to rise above challenges and perform optimally.
There are many different coping strategies that are effective for endurance athletes:
- goal setting
- positive self-talk
- muscular relaxation
- cognitive restructuring (re-interpreting past negative experiences)
- reframing (looking for the silver lining in seemingly bad events)
Fitzgerald suggests an interesting coping strategy:
In every race, tough training session, or bad event, pose to yourself a simple question:
“How bad do I want it?”
When you have a strong enough reason for competing, you can often endure through bad practices, losses, monotony, coach conflicts, slumps and all sorts of adversity unique to your competitive experience. After all, the essence of being an endurance athlete is ENDURING!
Tardio Tips: Top Strategy for Increasing your Mental Endurance
Finding your Motivation – Motivation often wanes when adversity piles up. In difficult times, endurance athletes ask themselves, “Why do I do this?”
Instead ask yourself, “How bad do I want it?”
This question energizes athletes to push through challenging times by looking at the big picture and examining why you chose this sport in the first place.
The key is to ask yourself this question early and often.
Don’t wait until you are being crushed by the weight of the world. Pose this question to yourself whenever you notice that your motivation is under attack.
Ratchet up that mental endurance… How bad do you really want it?
Related Article: Grit in Sports Equals Mental Toughness
Interested in upping your Mental Sports Performance? Free 15-Minute Mental Coaching Session
Parents learn more about Mental Coaching: About Mental Coaching