A few years ago I was at a triathlon coach’s seminar in San Diego and the instructor asked us, in our opinion, when it comes to racing, what percent is mental and what percent is physical? What ensued was a 45 min discussion with coaches shouting out, “50% mental, 50% physical!” …”60% physical, 40% mental” …. “17% physical …..”. Anyway, there is no correct, scientific answer to this question. On any given day, I might change my answer, but when it comes to competitive success, for me the answer is always mostly mental.
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Have you ever seen an athlete FILLED with talent who has the wrong attitude and just can’t seem to ‘bring it’ on race day? Plenty of times. Have you ever seen an athlete with loads of physical limitations but a winning attitude who does the impossible during a race? Plenty of times. So if the right attitude is so important on race day, how do you ensure that you have it after all the months of training for the competition? And how do you stay motivated from the moment you decide to enter the race until you get to the finish line?
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Remember this and make it your mantra: The discipline needed to finish the race (marathon, triathlon – whatever) starts with and is reinforced on a regular basis with the discipline needed to stick with your training plan.
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Chances are, if you are reading this start to finish, you’ve hit a training slump and need to know how to get out of it. The first thing you need to ask yourself is why did you decide to do this race in the first place. Did you do it because you needed a new challange? Did you do it because you thought everyone else was doing it and you didn’t want to be left out? Has this always been on your list of things to accomplish in your life? No matter how cautiously or impulisvely you registered for the marathon, is it in your nature to quit when the going gets tough?
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Probably not, so let’s see where you are stuck and see what you can do to get through it.
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You’ve had a training injury and are “behind schedule”
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I put this one first, because it happens to everyone. Even the most motivated athlete. In fact, probably more often to the most motivated athletes, because they never miss a training day! Sooner or later you get an overuse injury (we are only human) and you have to shut it down in order to heal. Here are some do’s and don’ts regarding training setbacks”
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Do
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•  Learn to distinguish between an ache and an injury. You are probably going to be sore a lot. Tight, achy muscles become a way of life for an athlete. But if the pain is joint related, or doesn’t feel better after a day or two of rest, you should get it checked out and follow your coach’s and if necessary, physician’s advice.
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•  Take your recovery as seriously as you take your training. If ice, elevation, PT and/or  massage are recommended, do it! How you handle your recovery will have everything to do with you well you will race and train in the future.
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•  Cross train if it’s allowed. I prescribe water running very often for my athletes. At the first sign of an overuse injury I send them to the pool so that they can keep going with the training  without making the injury worse. About 10% of my athletes actually do it. Why? Because it can be boring. Top U.S. marathoner Kim Jones ran her PR, 2:26:40 (at Boston), after her first winter of treadmill training. Frustrated by the harsh weather at her then home in Spokane Washington, Jones bought a treadmill and began doing up to 70 miles a week on it. How boring do you think that was?