The Fourth Discipline - Mental Ability

Triathlon Event  The first race of my second season of competing in triathlons I was well trained more fit than I have ever been in my life and about to compete in my first Olympic Distance Triathlon. As I was standing at the edge of the water waiting for my wave start the thoughts in my head were not quite as I had imagined it. I had imagined being focused and ready to take on the task that was before me…so why was I only thinking negative thoughts and why did I have a sick feeling in my gut? Does this sound familiar? For most athletes this happens to us at least once before a big race.

Training for a triathlon primarily means to train for each of the three segments of the race, which are the swim, the bike, and the run, right? Well this is the case, however an athlete’s mental toughness or mental ability can determine how well a race will actually turn out. What I mean is physically an athlete can be strong, fit, and in top physical form but for some reason some athletes lacks the ability to convert this into a great performance on race day. Some of the time it is due to external events such as the weather or a mechanical failure on the bike but mainly it is due to race anxiety or the inability to react to these external factors in a positive way.

One of the main goals of doing all that training is to perform to our potential. Performing your best has just as much to do with your physical ability as it does with achieving an ideal performance state or “Mental Ability.” Many athletes describe the state of optimal performance as “being in the zone” or a focus on the task at hand where their attention is on the doing and the here and now. While this is a desirable state it is very difficult for many athletes, especially Newbies, to obtain.

The 4 C’s

There are 4 mental qualities that dictate our ideal performance state 1) Confidence, 2) Commitment, 3) Concentration, and 4) Composure. There are many different techniques and skills that are available to train these 4 mental qualities:

  • Awareness Exercises
  • Goal Setting
  • Competition planning
  • Imagery
  • Relaxation
  • Activation
  • Effective Thinking

For many first timers the main goal is to simply finish their first triathlon and much of the unpleasant feelings stem from not having a plan of action or strategy for the race. For a NewBie with no race experience the best way to combat much of the anxiety of race day is to focus on “competition planning” Since many of you are first timers and much of the anxiety is around “race day”, competition planning is one of the best ways to calm the nerves on the big day. Having a plan should enable you to perform at your best. The best way to do this is by having a predetermined race day plan. After you have done your homework on the actual course through course inspection, I suggest writing it down and answering the following questions:

Pre-Race Routine

  1. In order to be appropriately warmed up and energized I will ______.
  2. In order to stay positive and control my nervousness I will ______.
  3. On the day of the race, what can I do during the day to remain positive, conserve energy, and avoid unnecessary stressors?

Race Day focus Plan

  1. During the swim start I will focus on _______.
  2. After the start and during the main part of the swim I will focus on _______.
  3. When I get distracted during the swim I will focus on ______.
  4. During the first transition, I will ______.
  5. During the first bike loop I will focus on ______.
  6. During the last bike loop I will focus on ______.
  7. During the second transition, I will ______.
  8. During the first run loop I will focus on ______.
  9. During the last run loop I will focus on ______.

Having a plan is half the battle when fighting of the fears of competing. By answering these questions and perhaps some of your own before the actual race, you will find that much of the fright and nervousness will disappear. This is mainly because you will be focused on the doing and not the feelings of doubt. Be creative and have a plan. Recommended Resources:


Triathlon Swim : – Get the low-down on gear and read tips for training and events.

Triathlon Bike: – Learn how to structure bike workouts, find safety tips and read recommendations on great bike gear.

Triathlon Run : – Get the ultimate skinny on running sneakers, running gear, safety tips and much more.

“Triathlete Profile
Read interviews of people like YOU who give advice on training, balance and much more.

There are Newbies Starting Triathlons Every Day. Today Just Happens to be YOUR Day!