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Mind over Matter – Leaping Over Mental Hurdles

They say it’s always good to look before you leap, but sometimes if you look too long and hard you start to doubt that you can even make that leap when you should have just gone for it. When racing and training for endurance sports such as running, cycling, triathlon, etc., you need to put in the time to train your body physically to achieve your goals. However, sometimes we forget that there is also a huge mental aspect to these sports as well. I remember being five hours into a half ironman race and feeling like my body was about a to give out, but I just kept telling myself that I could make it to the finish and sure enough I could. The saying “believing is achieving” is kind of corny, but there is a lot of truth to it.

I have always been the kind of athlete that trains hard, but I honestly believe that it was my belief in myself that got me to the finish line of some of my longer and tougher events. I might have needed to put in a bit more training for my half marathon or century ride, but just trusting that I could do it was enough to make up for some of those missing training miles. I used to leap without looking into events just believing that I could do anything and not worrying too much about the logistics. Yes, I trained, but I didn’t overthink things and just enjoyed the ride (or the run or the swim or whatever). I had fun and was successful with most of my endeavors.

Mind Over Matter3

Lately I have begun to analyze challenges more and put undue pressure onto myself to succeed and have found that it has caused me to put up some mental hurdles that I have had trouble leaping over. Instead of just going out, having fun, working hard and hoping for the best, I have begun to doubt myself and worry that I cannot achieve some of the goals I had set. The more I worry the more I seem to struggle and the higher those mental hurdles seem to grow. Why has my mindset started to change from carefree joy to worried concern? I am not sure, but I do know that success does not come when your mindset does not match up with your training. I train hard, putting in so many hours, so why now am I filling myself with doubt? I am probably more fit now than ever before, but my feelings of success are dwindling when it should be the exact opposite.

Here are some thoughts about having a good mindset in your training and racing:

  • You can do anything you set your mind to if you believe in yourself.
  • One bad training day or race does not mean you are a failure.
    • If you don’t do as well as you had hoped during a race or event, learn from it and use it as training for the next one.
    • Every failure or success should teach us something, look for the lesson to be learned.
  • Enjoy the training and racing – most of us are amateur athletes who are doing this for fun. If it stops being fun, then why do it!
  • If you are getting burnt out, mentally or physically, step back and take a break – take a couple of rest days, go for a hike, go play mini golf, just do something different and fun.
  • Just the fact that you are out there putting in the effort to train or race means that you are amazing – you could be sitting on the couch like 80% of Americans, but instead you are out running a 5K or riding fifty miles and that is remarkable!

I had my first races of the season this past weekend and I found that the mental hurdles I had built up were a bit too high for me to leap over. Today, as I sit and write this, I am stepping back, taking a deep breath and realizing that those hurdles aren’t so high after all. I know that if I look ahead and have faith that I can easily just leap right over them. I have become too focused on looking before I leap and now I just need to get back to taking those leaps and having the confidence to know that I will make it to the other side.