Inside the mind

February 23, 2012

I have really been diving into mental fitness this season. Not only is it part of our QT2 approach to training, it’s something many of us have struggled with at one point or another in our careers. Maybe we didn’t even realize it either. This week especially my mental fitness if not my mental health has been put to the test like never before. Sometimes the diagnosis isn’t the issue, it’s the waiting.

Update? There is no update. All we have right now is mystery alien baby whose name will likely be Chewbacca. At least that’s the name that gets all the votes. By Friday afternoon the question of the gender should be answered.

Before I forget… many thanks for the unbelievable kindness and love and words. One thing you realize through an event like this is that you have more people in your corner than you possibly realize. And the two people who run in the opposite direction….. were never there to begin with. Now let’s move on because I am NPO after 6am, and have a workout to do!

One thing we must remember about mental fitness….. it’s different from mental health. At our QT2 coaching conference in December Jesse phrased it perfectly “We won’t have physical fitness without having physical health first. And we can’t have mental fitness without mental health.”

Well said coach.

With the publishing of Chrissie Wellington’s autobiography we are already reading snippets of what it will be about. One things has always been clear about Wellington: she has superior mental fitness. It seems however we have become so drawn into the gadgetry of our sport that some think this whole mind over matter thing is something new.

It’s not. It’s the oldest trick in the book. Wellington happens to be a fresh reminder to not forget about it. To be honest it’s what catapulted Lisa Bentley to 11 Ironman victories despite having Cystic Fibrosis. It’s what Natasha Badman used to earn her Kona wins and certainly what brought Mark Allen to the finish line before Dave Scott that day…. back in the day. Now athletes have all the right tools, but need to remember the most important tool. Their minds.

If you were in our sport in the late 90’s, even early 2000’s you know that not only was a Garmin unheard of, no one had a powermeter, unless they had a computrainer. Most didn’t know what to do with that either. Many had heart rate monitors but there was none of this incessant (guilty myself of this) tracking and analyzation of our performances back then. The boom of technology has been awesome for our sport. It’s brought athletes to entirely new performance levels and allows us as coaches to become even more connected with those we coach.

Many think that when I came to QT2 I was switched out of my head and body and onto my Garmin. Sure it looks that was from the outside, but I assure you it isn’t the case. I came here a broken athlete who was promised a return to new heights if I had patience. I have had a lot of patience and I have used these past two years as my seasons of understudy. I learned to ride the bike correctly. Outsiders think we at QT2 sit back on the bike. We don’t. We ride at our best sustained effort for 56 or 112 miles (depending on race distance). The reason it appears that way is because others ride it as if it’s a 10K time trial. It’s not that we held back and surge ahead, it’s that they fall back and our athletes rock the run. When so many of our peeps run sub 3:05 in Kona off the bike, of course it might appear otherwise.

What I have learned is how to evenly pace. I learned to handle my nutrition. Before I came here I was a vomiting overpacing wreck of an athlete who struggled with injuries and other issues. Now I am about to embark on what I feel may be my best season yet. Hinging of course on alien baby.

But back to this mental fitness stuff.

I did allow myself to become distracted from it. Not because of a Garmin but because of a busy life. My issues with mental fitness stem from putting everyone else first, which we all do as Moms. Embarrassing as it may sound I have spent much of this season so far paying just as much attention to me.  There is a difference between narcissism and making yourself a priority. I don’t know how we become our own last priority but we do. It’s made all the difference so far this season.

I think there is a very healthy balance we as athletes can stroke between our mind and our watches. Have you ever stopped running because your Garmin hasn’t located, or freaked out because your heart rate is reading 220? Have you ever done it in a RACE? I can proudly say I have never done that, but I have seen and coached athletes who HAVE. Keep running I will scream at them…. it doesn’t matter… KEEP RUNNING!

They will ask me… what should I do?????

Look UP! I will say. It’s time to then turn it off, look away and don’t worry about it. It’s a watch. It’s going to at some point fail and don’t let that hinder you.

Now at the same time maybe you’ve been that athlete who is running along, you look down at your Garmin and say, whoa I’d better get my ass moving! In this case it’s a help.

As I said I think there is a healthy balance. just like with all things in life. Healthy balance. With food, with training, with anything. Too much of an imbalance in anything is unhealthy.

Yesterday I came across this fascinating article called “Talk Nice“, which talks of the mental side of sport as studied by the Acclaimed Dr. Tim Nokes. Nokes refers to this thing called “The governor” which is our mind, and it’s true power over what we can, and think we can’t do. Read it.

Once you realize that you even have a governor, once you see that and see what it has prevented or talked you into doing….. you realize that the most powerful muscle you have in your body is the space between your ears. That’s not just true in sport, it’s true in life.



One comment

  1. “There is a difference between narcissism and making yourself a priority.” – YES. The difference between self-centeredness and centering yourself. Thanks for the nice post.

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