Train Your Brain

  • By Samantha McGlone
  • Published Feb 24, 2012
  • Updated Oct 31, 2014 at 4:37 PM UTC
Photo: Nils Nilsen

How do you do mentally prepare for a race?

Endurance sports are largely a mental game. Physical training is essential to perform well, but beyond the swim, bike and run, mental training techniques can also help you prepare for the big day.

Most professional athletes practice some type of visualization, but what does that entail other than just “thinking about a perfect race”? I have developed my own visualization routine over the years, and it usually includes thinking about what can go wrong rather than right. Perfect days are rare—I can think of exactly twice in my 12 years when I have felt like there was no chain on the bike and I could run all day without getting tired. Those are the 1 percent days, and if you are having one of those you won’t need mental strength. So, I don’t visualize those days. Instead I focus on the other 99 percent of the time: the days of relentless headwinds, heavy legs and mind-numbing fatigue.

The point is not to dwell on the negative, but to prepare for the inevitable events and emotions that will surface on race day. To achieve this, I break my visualization routine into three parts: logistical, physical and mental. The days before a race I try to find a quiet place and run through the entire race three times, focusing on each component individually.

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