When Bad Days Happen To Good Athletes

September 2

Goal was to go 17 mph. Just wasn't able to get it to happen. Felt like I was pedaling through molasses. Tough day on the bike. At 4 hours 30 minutes I was at the end of the gateway trail near my car and it took a long time to decide if I should throw my bike into the farmer’s field and call it a season, lay down right there and take a nap, or continue with the last hour and a half. At the end of the ride I felt completely shot. Everything just felt off. It took a long time to decide if I wanted to do the run. I seriously contemplated skipping it. Then I thought about just doing an hour. Decided I better do the whole thing as I'm going to have to do a marathon at the IM.

This is the entry during one of century training rides followed by a long run during my Ironman training. Every athlete is going to have training days like this. The goal is to not give up and push through these days and come out stronger in the end. On these tough days I go back to one of my favorite quotes by Greg Plitt, “Championships aren’t won in the theater of the arena. They are won in the thousands of hours of training and the five a.m. runs in the rain when everyone else is sleeping. That’s where it’s won. The heart of a champion is a light switch that’s always on – it doesn’t go on and off when someone’s watching – it’s constant.”

If you’re quick to give up during a training session what’s going to give you the drive to go through when the going gets tough on race day. Tough days in training are what you need to help you have the confidence to finish tough races. Training days aren’t just about working on your body and your muscles, but about training your brain and mindset. It’s equally important to have a strong mindset and a strong body because it’s your brain that will give up on you long before your body will. 

Here are six steps to help you get through those tough training days and help you start to improve the strength of your mindset:

  • Have one or two positive mantras that you can repeat to yourself when you’re struggling.

This is tough; I’m tougher

I’m not training to be skinny; I’m training to be bad-ass

Kicking my ass today, so I can beat yours tomorrow

  • Check your nutrition. Often times when I find I’m completely depleted and just don’t think I can take another step it’s because I have neglected to stay on top of my nutrition. Try taking on nutrition and see if that helps your energy level. Be sure to record any changes in your mood/energy in your training log.
  • Are you training in the correct zones? If this is a long bike or run session then you should be training in a lower zone. Often times athletes will push too hard during easy sessions and not hard enough during hard sessions. This can lead to burn out and over-training, and will not help an athlete improve.
  • Some days in training are meant to tough and fatiguing. Remember these days are built into you’re training plan and should test your mettle. Remind yourself that of your long-term goals and this is just another step in the recipe to make you successful.
  • If it’s safe to do so during training try listening to upbeat music or motivational speeches. I subscribe to different Youtube channels that are full of motivational messages as well as videos about going after your dreams, being a champion, and never giving up. My favorite is Mateusz M.
  • If you find yourself in a negative downward spiral, take a moment to distract yourself. If you’re outside pay attention to your surroundings. Try to find one positive thing whether it’s an interesting cloud in the sky, or the color of the leaves, or a cool breeze against your cheek. If you can’t find anything then take a moment just to be grateful that you’re able to train at all. Sure it’s hard, but there are much harder things in life than training. Be grateful and give thanks for all the things you are able to do.

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These are just a few things to try to help you be your best during racing and training. Please leave a comment below and let me know what’s helped you get through tough training days.   

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