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Speedo Says...

Finding the will to win

At that crucial ‘make or break’ point in a race, it’s those who have committed to training their mind as well as their body who will succeed. Learn how to improve your fitness achievements with this advice on breaking through those 'killer' moments.

At that crucial ‘make or break’ point in a race, it’s those who have committed to training their mind as well as their body who will succeed. Learn how to improve your fitness achievements with this advice on breaking through those 'killer' moments.


Deputy editor of Running Fitness magazine and trainee sport and exercise psychologist, Evie Serventi, asks professional and amateur athletes how they find the power to dig deep and break through even the toughest mental barriers to find that winning element.


Checkpoint 1: Mini milestones


Creating micro-goals during this year’s London marathon helped Paralympian Tim Prendergast (who has just 5% vision) push through that crucial final stretch. ‘Having little milestones and landmarks, and ticking them off mile by mile, really helped,’ says Tim, who ran a personal best of 2 hours 46 minutes. ‘It’s the same in training. For example, I’ll break a two-hour run into small chunks (such as following particular cars) and, before I know it, I’ve knocked off another five or ten minutes.’


I don’t visualise an hour; I just look at 30 minutes, then switch to ‘I can do anything at all for 10 minutes’
Scientist and all-round athlete Kim Anderson shares Tim’s strategy on the indoor bike: ‘I don’t visualise an hour; I just look at 30 minutes, then switch to “I can do anything at all for 10 minutes”. Then (I need to really dig deep here) I switch to a minute-by-minute acceptance of the discomfort and try to break it down in my head. When I have clocked through one minute, I can always start the next, and the next.’


UP YOUR GAME


Create process goals (run to the next tree, swim to the end of the lane). Make up an ‘I can do anything for two minutes’ motto.

Checkpoint 2: Create a vision board


Encapsulating your goals with pictures not only helps with motivation, it can help you stay focused when you start to struggle. Open-water swimmer and member of Team Speedo Chelsea Gubecka (below) created a poster that includes motivational quotes such as: ‘Wake up with determination and go to bed with satisfaction’. The first thing she sees in the morning, it inspires her to keep focused on training and preparation to compete at her best this summer.


The key is to link positive emotions with your goals


UP YOUR GAME


Stick images and motivational phrases or words on to paper. The key is to link positive emotions (confidence, joy) to your goal, focusing on how you want to feel rather than what you want to achieve.

Checkpoint 3: Make up a mantra


Triathlete Natasha Pertwee was a complete beginner just a few years ago and this year has qualified to represent Great Britain (Age Group) under the British Triathlon Federation (BTF). She found the ‘bubble, bubble, breathe’ mantra helped her overcome feeling sick and panicky in the swim.


Natasha recently changed her mantra to ‘relax and stretch’ after realising she holds her shoulders super-tense in the water. ‘If I get bumped into, I get back on track by counting buoys that I have swum past and saying “that’s another one down, not far now” and then back to “relax and stretch”,’ she says.


UP YOUR GAME


Create a mantra that resonates, perhaps a word or phrase that’s personal and meaningful. And change it as needed!


Checkpoint 4: Picture perfect


‘When I am racing, I’ll often envisage myself racing with people I train with who are better than me, and I’ll be fighting to stay with them. I find that really helps,’ says triathlete Steven Barkess, who also competes for Great Britain in Age Group races under BTF.


When I am racing, I’ll often envisage myself racing with people… who are better than me
Endurance runner Sam Lloyd visualises her technique when she starts to struggle mentally and physically: ‘I think “head up, look ahead, shoulders back and relaxed, arms pumping back and forwards, hips high and I’ll work all the way down to my toes”,’ says Sam.


UP YOUR GAME


Think of a time you felt strong, in control, relaxed (sport/non-sport-related). Create an image of this time, and practise visualising it, over and over. Include smells, sounds, colours, textures.

Checkpoint 5: All in the detail


Practising technique and drills helps to build mental strength. Focusing on technique also keeps you tuned into the race and helps to reduce pressure.


Practising technique and drills helps to build mental strength
Breathing is another key area that’s often overlooked. ‘I focus on deep yoga breathing, counting in for three or four strides; then out for three or four strides and keep this going until the moment passes,’ says Sam.


UP YOUR GAME


Take up yoga and/or practise five minutes of deep breathing daily. In training, practise techniques and drills so you can draw on these in races when you hit the wall.

Checkpoint 6: Be social


‘Training in a group or with a partner is crucial, as you’ll tap into the strength and energy of others and push harder, particularly if you train with people better than you,’ says Steven. Endurance cyclist Linda Endicott, who ranks eighth in the world in her Age Group after competing in the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Gran Fondo World Series Championships in 2015, agrees: ‘Riding with people you know can help during a race or long ride as they are a familiar face; they can give you encouragement and you can work together.’


UP YOUR GAME


Join a club or train with family or friends. The encouragement, help and company will push you and help you try new things.


Tap into the strength and energy of others


Checkpoint 7: Fuel your body


Finally, mental barriers aside, it’s vital to understand what’s happening to your body physically when exercising, according to Dr Liz Scott, who runs performance consultancy The Tri Life. There’s a big difference between pushing through discomfort and feeling physical pain; when your body is screaming ‘stop!’ pay attention: ‘Physiological glycogen (energy) depletion means your tank is empty, and it’s not just a case of mentally pushing through; you may need fuel. So slow down, take some nutrition on-board and re-hydrate,’ she says.


UP YOUR GAME


Top up your fuel tank and hydrate well, in training or racing.