Problem 5: Maintaining focus while racing
Did my mom come to cheer? Is that my mom? Squirrel!
Solved: “The first thing you want to do is make a plan for the race,” Haberl says. Part of that plan should focus on a specific point in the race that you think will be difficult. “You want to be aware of the specific thoughts that undermine confidence.” Staying focused will help with confidence, Haberl says, “because once you stop paying attention to what’s going on in the race, you stop paying attention to your form. Paying attention to your form will be much more conducive to racing well than having a debate in your head.”
Also, try using cue words. “When you’re racing, and you start to feel something that’s distracting, or feel confidence fade, you want to have the ability to make a mental transition to get you back into your flow,” Carr says. “In other words, you don’t want to completely get off of the interstate at an exit; you want to get off at a rest stop, and come right back on.” Cues—words or mantras that keep you focused and present—can help. It’s as simple as repeating a few bon mots to yourself whenever you need them. You might tell yourself, “just chill,” on the swim, or “strong and smooth” on the bike to induce optimal cadence and power.
Pro Tip: Cue Words
Van Vlerken recently tattooed the word “gratitude” on her left wrist to remind her of how lucky she is to be racing. She’s also placed run course signs broadcasting the same word for inspiration.