Race Tips

A Pro Guide to Developing Race-Day Grit

When it comes to endurance sports, mental preparation is what separates the winners from everyone else.

When it comes to endurance sports, mental preparation is what separates the winners from everyone else, says former pro triathlete Joanna Zeiger. In her new book, The Champion Mindset: An Athlete’s Guide to Mental Toughness, the Olympian and Ironman 70.3 world champ gives a special look into her brain training methods, taking readers on her personal journey to the top of the sport. One key to an unbreakable mind: setting non-outcome-related goals.

That’s because using performance as the only type of goal ultimately leads to disappointment. On any given day, it’s extremely difficult to reach a PR, the podium or the qualifying standard for a big race. Think about the factors that must come into play to have a sensational race:

(1) Your training needs to be consistent and excellent without disruption from injury, illness, and outside
(2) You need to nail your taper.
(3) You need great weather conditions.
Your nutrition needs to be dialed in perfectly.
(5) You must have luck on your side.

The long list of factors needed to perform at your best is truly amazing. It is no wonder, then, that so often we fall short of the goals we set for ourselves. That is why it is vital to set non-outcome-related goals, or process goals—the small steps you’ll need to take to achieve your performance objectives. Unlike, say, the big overall goal of winning your age group, process goals are completely under your control; they’re the key to staying positive and consistently feeling accomplished.

Nail your nutrition. What works in training does not always pan out during a race. Use an event prior to your goal race to try out something nutritionally that’s worked in training but you’ve never tried in a race.

Change the pace. Tend to go out conservatively? Try a race where you go out a little harder and see if you can hold on to it. Usually go out like a bat out of hell? Start a little easier in your next race and try to finish stronger.

Race for fun. Sometimes a destination race is just that: all about the destination.

Test yourself. Running races, bike time trials and swim meets are excellent substitutes for a regularly scheduled training session, so try one. Using a race as a training session keeps you in the racing mode, allows you to go harder than you would during training, and helps you boost your fitness and confidence going into your goal race.

Perfect biomechanics. Every race is a chance to hone your skills by improving the fundamentals, such as gait, pedal stroke and swim technique.

Implement your new mental game. Every event is an opportunity to practice and make strides in upping your mental fortitude. Take pride in these and other race-day accomplishments that will someday come together perfectly to get you that well-deserved PR, podium or Kona slot.

Copyright © 2017 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.