First published in 1946, Victor E Frankl’s best selling book – ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’ documents the authors struggle for survival in Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. It’s a book I was first introduced to over a decade ago by a close friend whom, believe it or not, left school without the ability to read and write! I’ve since picked up and read this classic on numerous occasions and refer to it often in my day-to-day life and interactions with friends and clients. In the book Victor Frankl references the words of his countryman and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche – “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”
Whilst the Holocaust is an event of the past, hopefully never to be repeated, the lessons Frankl teaches us through this book and his work in the field of Logotherapy are, in my opinion, very much relevant to life today. (Logotherapy is Frankl’s own theory that human nature is motivated by the search for a life purpose).
So what has all this got to do with triathlon and/or cycling you might ask? Well it’s my belief that in order for us to perform at our best in times of immense struggle it’s important, nae crucial, that we first have a WHY.
In a little over 3 weeks approximately 1,500 men and women will tackle Australia’s oldest and most iconic Ironman in Port Macquarie. I myself have raced Ironman Australia on 4 occasions, 3 Forsters and 1 Port Mac. At the final event in Forster 2005 I had my WHY and to honest be it was pretty simple. I told myself that if I could get through the marathon without walking, I could do ANYTHING and anything meant addressing two key issues that had been plaguing my life for years. I ran that whole marathon and took 13mins off my 2004 time. However, it was the sense of empowerment that overrode my joy at setting a new PB and that became the catalyst to confront issues I’d chosen not to address because previously they’d seemed ‘too hard to deal with’.
I think unlike any other sport, triathlon and particularly endurance events such as Ironman and Ultraman draw close comparison with struggles we face in our day-to-day lives. Struggles we often feel we’re not equipped to deal with, which really just means that we need a ‘self image’ overhaul as nothing is impossible.
If you’re preparing for Ironman Australia it’s a fair bet that your physical training is coming to a close and taper is almost upon you. If you haven’t yet started your mental training I’d suggest now is a good time.
Mental training can and should take on a number of forms:
- Finding your WHY – there will be times, most likely numerous times during this longest of days that you’ll ask yourself the question ‘why am I doing this?’ Have your WHY ready!
- Visualization – the process of creating a mental image or intention of what you want to happen or feel during the event. To quote Kay Porter, author of ‘The Mental Athlete’ – “An athlete can use this technique to ‘intend’ an outcome of a race or training session, or simply to rest in a relaxed feeling of calm and well-being. By imagining a scene, complete with images of a previous best performance or a future desired outcome, the athlete is instructed to simply ‘step into’ that feeling. While imagining these scenarios, the athlete should try to imagine the detail and the way it feels to perform in the desired way. These scenarios can include any of the senses. They can be visual (images and pictures), kinesthetic (how the body feels), or auditory (the roar of the crowd). Using the mind, an athlete can call upon these images over and over, enhancing the skill through repetition or rehearsal, similar to physical practice. With mental rehearsal, minds and bodies become trained to actually perform the skill imagined.”
- Stop comparing yourself to others – “Feelings of inferiority originate not so much from facts or experiences , but from our conclusions regarding facts and our evaluation of experiences” – Maxwell Maltz – The New Psycho-Cybernetics. For example, the fact that I am an inferior Triathlete to my friend Stephen Gage or Coach Matt Koorey does not mean that I am an inferior person. Koorey’s inability to perform a bike fit makes him an inferior bike fitter, but not an inferior person. It all depends upon who’s norms and by what we measure ourselves by. In order to perform at your best in these endurance events the ‘blinkers’ must go on, for most, worrying about what the competition is doing and who’s gone up the road can be sufficient to derail the most comprehensive preparation.
- Forget past failures and move ahead – “Continually criticizing yourself for past mistakes and errors – whether from years ago or minutes ago – does not help matters, but on the other hand tends to perpetuate the very behavior you would change. The minute that we change our minds and stop giving power to past, the past with its mistakes loses its power over us.” – Maxwell Maltz – The New Psycho-Cybernetics The old saying “you’re only as good as your last performance” can be a recipe for disaster. Focus on the now, stay in the moment and ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST!
Recommended reading material:
- Man’s Search For Meaning – Viktor E Frankl
- The New Psycho-Cybernetics – Maxwell Maltz
- The Mental Athlete – Kay Porter