Guest Post: How to stay focused during training or racing

How to Stay Focused when Racing or Training

Today, I’ve got a guest post written by Amy Stone who blogs at Amy Says So and hosts the Mile After Mile podcast. Her blog is full of tips, advice and personal stories from her journey to become an Ironman triathlete. Amy offered to share her mantras for staying focused and motivated during a long race or training session and I thought this would be a great guest post as well as something I can learn from myself.

Here is Amy… 

I have been racing marathons, half-Ironman races and now Ironman races for over 20 years. Additionally this year I started interviewing other age-group athletes that were accomplishing crazy amazing things. I have learned something important that I think is worth sharing.

Committing to finish and figuring out how you will stay focused before the race or training is a simple but really important to your success in that race.

US runner Kara Goucher said, “Once you make the decision that you will not fail, the heart and body will follow.” I have that taped to my desktop computer because I’m a motivation nerd.

As the training and racing gets longer staying focused for the entire duration can be challenging.

You probably have a plan for your workout or race. In long events as the miles tick away and fatigue sets in sometimes it can be hard to hold on to the focus and desire and maintain the effort level that you want.

You might find yourself thinking, “I’m really tired, this is enough for today.” Or “ I’m done. I’m too busy for this crap.” Or even just, “I can’t go this fast. What was I thinking?”

Every athlete is different but a thing that works for me to maintain my focus is to be prepared with a preset of mantras or phrases that keep me motivated through the event.

Here are 5 of my favorite inspirational nuggets that I use. I say them to myself in my head during the race. 

Run your own race
This is a really common piece of advice that I picked up as a beginner runner. I still love it. I use this before the race and at the start to remind me to follow my own plan no matter what other people around me are doing. I even use this in the swim start where I am most likely to go out too fast. Yes, as I’m swimming I say, run your own race. I should probably say swim but it works for me either way.

This is what I trained for
When I find myself doubting if I can hold a pace during a race or maybe deciding to walk up a hill instead of jog or otherwise just letting up the effort this is what I try to tell myself. I remind myself of all the hard intervals I did and how this is not as hard as that was and I try to give a little more.

If it is to be, it is up to me
The thing I love and hate about racing is that it’s all me. Nobody can swim bike or run it for me. Sometimes late in a race when I have a goal that might be slipping away this is what I chant to myself to keep the effort up.

Be the warrior
This came from Mark Divine of Seal Fit. He is like the Jedi master of mental control. He talks a lot about finding your inner warrior and stuff but this ‘be the warrior’ mantra has stuck with me. When I’m tired and find myself daydreaming instead of focusing on my race or workout this is what brings me back. It is also a reminder to focus on my breathing which always helps.

One more minute. You can do anything for one minute.
This is left over from my original days of running with a group of Galloway runners. We would have intervals that we ran and then we would walk for recovery. As we first built up miles my group leader would say, “you can do anything for one minute!”  While it was miserable it is almost always true. You can do pretty much anything for a minute. The trick is of course that after that minute you have to convince yourself to do it again and again.

How do I use these mantras? I have these memorized and they bounce around in my head so I can recall them whenever. But when I’m sitting down and making my race plan- thinking through the day as I hope it will play out I’ll think about where I can use my motivation.

For example I’m getting ready for a race in Central Florida. I have done this race before so I am familiar with the course. It has a very congested swim and I’m not great with congestion. I like my own space in the water and I’m not going to get it in this swim, so I plan to use the ‘If it is to be, it is up to me’ mantra in the swim. I can’t ask those people to swim my pace I just need to get out there and do it.

This race is famous for it’s insanely hot run. There is no breeze so you just feel like melting- it’s no fun at all. I have been trying to physically and mentally prepare for this for a few weeks. Running in heat and telling myself, “I love the heat.” During the run  (which has 3 loops and 2 steep dream crushing hills on each loop) I plan to tell myself; “this is what I trained for”- over and over and over.

What are your mantras which you use during tough training sessions or races?

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