It is such an important part of anyone’s event or race yet is so overlooked and gets lost behind all those miles of training.
What am I meaning by your mental racing state?
That frame of mind you are in when you toe the line, not complicated, right?
Breaking this down, are you happy, sad, angry, relaxed, apathetic, nonchalant or may be a mix the mentioned states.
Now we know what I mean, we have to look back at events and races (do you keep notes?). This is what those little comments sections on your Training Peaks are for, or if you are like me, I keep notebooks on races, events, challenges that I love to go back and look through.
This process is the same as training data, we look back at pace, effort, time etc but we are now looking for emotion. This is so important because even if all the data is perfect, if our racing state of mind is not good (as in working positively for us, I will expand on this) then we will not be able to maximise our data numbers in our chosen playing field.
Now I will take it one step back. Your racing state of mind can be sad, but for you sad is a positive racing state of mind. More explanation, you looked back at your best races and you see that you had toed the line in a sad state of mind, yet your best performance ever followed this state of mind.
This means your psychology to push yourself is at its best when in this emotional state, although it’s not to say that you may not perform better in a happy state (unless you have that information from an event where you performed badly, and you were happy)
As with any psychology, we can train this- we can use triggers and visualisation methods to make a certain mental state more positive for performance. This takes a lot of dedication and training. Using your natural state of mind is easier, once we have found it, we practise with it.
This is 100% personal to you, you can not copy someone else on this one. Trying to understand why one person can be angry and perform amazingly while another can be nonchalant and get a best performance is not easy, but the fact is it works and so why wouldn’t we train this, just like all our physical training and prep.
Using sadness again as an example, how do we get sad on the start line, firstly we are not trying to get sad, we are trying to engage the emotion, to do this means finding what caused the sadness before and re-thinking about this or thinking of something new that will create the state of mind.
I have many examples of racing state of mind with my athletes, but one stands out more than most. I have been working with this athlete for nearly 6 years and they were going for their 3rd world title, now going into this race we had a few not great results.
Coaching job kicks in looking at data, all physical prep etc and this all comes back that they should be smashing the races?
I create a mock race at the next world champ’s venue and head up with my athlete to see if I can see what is going on, 12 plus hours of watching my athlete push themselves and show that the data is spot on and performance is bang on. So, what is happening??
A meal and long chat with my athlete that evening gave us both the answer. The previous 2 world titles and all race wins in between had very different racing mental states to the more resent unsuccessful races.
Because the athlete now had 2 world titles and a target on their back they subconsciously changed their racing mind set, this made a fundamental change in how the athlete started a race and how they viewed what happened early on during a race and this negatively impacted them to a point of big performance drops.
Needless to say, what we focused on between this discovery and the next World Championships was flicking the mental approach back to pre-world titles and yes, they won again with their most dominate win to date.
(I am not going to say what the two mindsets were, as this is personal to the athlete who is still competing)
So, take a moment and if you have made notes, look back and if you haven’t maybe start making some notes on what your racing/event mental state is.
I hope you find this helpful and please do get in touch if you would like to learn more or take up training with E3C, firstname.lastname@example.org.