There are five elements which I believe are at the heart of performance and each has its role to play in contributing to an athlete’s success; physiology, psychology, technical and neuro-muscular strength, tactical understanding and finally an athlete’s lifestyle
Over the next few blogs I’ll continue to briefly introduce my reasons for including each one of the five elements, some will of course, be obvious, whilst others might not be at the top of your list.
Element 2 – Psychology
Ever heard of the saying ‘hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard’?
For me this is the basis of why psychology plays such a strong role in creating performances we can be proud of. The basics of training, racing and recovery are less about pure natural potential, and more about how you approach, complete and reflect on them than many people think. That’s not to say to perform at the sharp end of a field, you don’t need any genetic help, of course you do, but to achieve this potential you need to behave in a way that is appropriate for you to make the most of the potential you have. How often have you known people who look like they should achieve more but their performances look like they are short of what is possible?
The behaviours we require to approach training, racing and recovery in a way that maximises our potential are not limited to world champions. We may not all have the athletic potential of Olympic medal winners or Ironman champions but we can still reach our own potential, which, I believe in many cases, is further along the road than an athlete may have first thought. Imagine what you could do if you trained or recovered with that little bit more (or in some cases less) focus. Those small increases all build up and after all, training and recovery is about maximizing opportunities to make ourselves better, so that ultimately, when we stand on a start line we do so confidently knowing we have done everything we can, with the time we have available to have the best race possible.
Our behaviours also interact closely with our thoughts and feelings. Our understanding of how this interaction occurs is a big factor in allowing us to move closer to our potential. This applies to coaches too; not only knowing themselves but also knowing how to understand these interactions in other people. With this the coach-athlete connection can become stronger and the potential for improvement increases further.
Through understanding our own thoughts, feelings and behaviours, it is not only possible to maximise our training but also maximise our racing across all triathlon distances and it is amplified in longer-distance races. In these races it is highly likely that athletes have a lot of time to think, to make decisions and to dwell on decisions. At this point knowing yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and how you react to the different situations faced on race day, can often be the difference between a successful race and one that doesn’t meet our expectations.
Simple, practical strategies which stem from the four key areas of goal setting, relaxation, visualisation and self-talk can all be used in appropriate ways, at the appropriate time by any athlete and create race-transforming results. These strategies are not always easy, in fact, they are often a challenge, take a lot of hard work and practice but, for most, they are worthwhile. I’ll talk more about these in later blogs, however for the time being, if you thought performance was only down to physiology, think again…