Author: Lauren Dyck
I remember my first triathlon start very clearly. I squinted through my tinted goggles at the large-ish body of water that lay before me. A slew of doubts suddenly flew through my mind – what was I doing here? Why was I voluntarily going to get myself kicked and pushed through the water, only to then spin my wheels on a bike, and then RUN? Warm coffee would be great right about now. With a comfy blanket and Netflix. But before I could entertain these thoughts, we were off.
I finished in 11th place, but I didn’t care! I had pushed myself hard to do this. The weeks of training had made life extra-crazy, and every day I collapsed into bed. But I was hooked. The feeling of accomplishment and confidence was unmatched by anything else I had previously experienced. However, even more than the physical reward, I realized that the motor behind all of this had been my mental strength and ability to set my mind to something and see it through.
Physically changing your body is relatively easy. If you push yourself just a little harder each day, the body will adapt. This is the easy part. The bigger challenge in training for something new is to convince your brain that you can do it. Our brain is always looking out for us. But when we can experience the rewards that come from over-riding these over-protective mechanisms, we can really tap into our true potential – not only from a physical standpoint, but from a life standpoint as well. What the brain starts, the body will follow.
Here are three ways that you can kickstart your mental strength training:
• Seriously prioritize your goals. Consider your workout just as important is going to work or making dinner. If you keep your goal as a secondary “thing that I’ll get to later”, it’s much easier to leave it behind.
• Keep your plate organized. If you’re going to add in something new to your routine, keep in mind that something else might have to go. Our brain reserves are limited – we can’t do it all, all the time. Recognize that the thing to go will usually be the harder option, so set yourself up for success beforehand.
• Give it time to become a routine. Routines take time to build, but as humans we find comfort in them. Routines are just strengthened brain pathways – while introducing a new behaviour into your life, recognize that with some time and practice, it will eventually become as automatic as taking the dog for a walk. There are plenty of habit and goal-tracking apps these days that are great if you are a visual or interactive-type person.
• “This too, shall pass”. Doing something new, physically or otherwise, is not going to be easy. But the bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward. Know that the reward will come, and you are in a position of discomfort only temporarily.
The rest of life suddenly begins to change shape when you begin to view new experiences as things that yield inner reward. What are you waiting for?
Lauren Dyck is a Registered Physiotherapist and avid Triathlete. She has completed over ten races since her first several years ago, including the 70.3 Half Ironman last summer with a podium finish.
When not training herself, Lauren specializes in treating endurance athletes of all levels in her personal physiotherapy practice, with an emphasis on strength training and injury prevention. She has two dogs – an English bulldog named Brick (for couch snuggles) and a chocolate lab named Floyd (as a running partner).
You can follow her racing adventures at www.sheswimsbikesruns.com