How much is in the mind!

Many of the fantastic athletes we deal with as TDC coaches are motivated athletes who are more than able to reach their excellent goals physically, they are what we call the wicked work horses. They will churn the miles, battle the cold, hurt the lungs and will do everything possible to use their body to the absolute maximum. What we find is becoming more and more common is that many athletes around the globe will turn up to races in the best shape possible but are unable to perform at whatever level, as they cannot deliver the confidence within themselves. As TDC coaches and athletes we do not and cannot overlook these issues within the athletes we coach. Instead we want to do everything possible to help and support these issues and also prevent our athletes from experiencing them. We aim to address the potential issues hands on with ideas we use daily, and that we intend to work for many of you! At Team Dillon we are all about reaching that next goal whatever it may be… and in doing so, whatever size, big or small, in some part of our triathlon career, the mental block of triathlon can be a lonely battle, but it doesn’t have to be! The most important thing is to remain positive, believe in ourselves, and overcome obstacles as a team!

Evidence that brain training boosts performance

Mental fatigue is one of the most common things that undermines performance, because the altered perception of how hard the effort is.” (Taken from after a scientific test was taken using brain training)

For many it can be battling the pressures during a session, but for others it can be the pressure before they have even started. As an athlete and coach it is not difficult to relate to the feeling of doubt before we have even begun. We all have evidence, but what is so important is that we can speak about it. This should not leave anyone feeling guilty or embarrassed, instead as huge enthusiasts of our sport we want to encourage and support everyone.

The Triathlete’s mind

It’s amazing how much time and money and energy goes into performance, and they just leave the mental stuff to chance” Dr Jim Afremow (sports psychologist, author of Champions mind)

Whilst triathletes tend to train their bodies 1-3 times a day, they don’t often train their minds. Often the excuse being there is not enough time in the day. It’s true, how can you possibly fit in another session, when triathletes are already at the highest point of fatigue because we have to fit so much training into one day.  A good time to tune into your mind is in between training sessions, or when you have a quiet moment to yourself. Positive thoughts are produced from the core of your thinking process then generated through your own actions. So if you are constantly thinking positively the outcome will usually be a good one, on the other hand if you are thinking negatively, the body responds and follows these thoughts and you end up with the result you didnt set out for.

If you let a negative thought take control then form will drop, breathing will feel pressured, and speed will lessen. Outside of training, a negative thought will lessen your time to recover between sessions, causing you to feel unwell and ultimately can cause you to feel unhappy, even in some cases missing sessions. So let’s change it, here we have listed some KEY things that might help you towards your next race!

Visualisation to Victory: Michelle Dillon: “Visualization has been a useful tool I used to win some of my biggest races! It’s so powerful, if you see yourself winning or doing well in the lead up it’s more likely to happen in the race. The last race of my career was London Triathlon and I used visualisation in the lead up. It worked!” For many top sports professionals, visualisation is arguably one of the strongest mental routes to success, Michelle proved this just recently after qualifying for the World Duathlon Championships, going back to race at the Elite Level again post retirement!!! As a coach and from her own racing and training experience she is able to implement it within her own TDC athletes training programmes. Try this for your next session coming up, visualisation can produce the best possible outcome.


Putting the feet up: Stuart Hayes: “I’ve spent 20+ years competing at triathlon. I’ve watched most swimming/cycling/ running documentaries or competitions whilst working on the turbo. So instead, these days I enjoy a good movie or TV show as it takes me away from the sport which you need sometimes. Especially when you have spent so much time involved in it!” Stu’s relaxing tools are a great way to switch off from the world that surrounds us. It’s important in every life to keep a balance, and putting the feet up is definitely a great way of finding that balance. Find a film you’ve never seen before and enjoy it with the family.


Train like no.2 Race like no.1: Emma Pallant: “My competitors are hurting out there more so I have got to hurt and want it more” A great example of Emma’s mind behind the sport. Here try keeping focus by imagining how others are feeling. Whether it be your Saturday park run, or you’re first Ironman, try to keep the head in the game by taking in what others are feeling and how you can suffer longer! Emma also encourages her athletes to do the same in race situations. Her athletes have been incredibly successful in doing so!


Demonstrating the Dragonfly: Caitlin Bradley: “I’ve just started ensuring yoga exercises in my routine daily whilst I’ve been demanding my athletes to do it for months! Currently working on my dragon fly position, I’m a total novice, but it’s my only thing away from a very busy work schedule and what surrounds what I do. I continue to improve it, in the meantime it boosts my confidence during my morning run to frankly show how much a better runner I am than a yogi. HA! Who doesn’t love a confidence kick?” Yoga and meditation are excellent way of dealing with nerves, anxiety or negative thoughts around sport. Usually it is something that none of us athletes are great at. Sometimes we can be! It allows us to totally distract ourselves from everything else in our lives and focus on something we have no expectations on. Many free yoga classes are run around the country. All of our coaches know yoga exercises that can be incorporated into our programmes.


I can AND I WILL: Stephen Clark If ever an example of determination and having a ‘never give up attitude’ is needed……Stephen is it! Stephen Clark, who at the age of 59 and relatively new to triathlon, has smashed his way through his first ever attempt at the Ironman.” Defying the odds is something our mind doesn’t understand. It is only through practice can we make the body believe it. If you are looking to overcome those demons, perhaps enter something you first thought was impossible. Overcoming mental battles just ask our TDC athlete Stephen!

But whether you’re training your brain to withstand mental fatigue or reminding yourself in the middle of an Ironman that rough patches pass, remember one thing: you like running and this is what you do as a Pro athlete or as a competitor, but always have fun! Enjoy your training and racing and best wishes for your season.