9da67347aa1af27 Mental Triathlon Beginner Toughness continued...why Athletes ChokeSo you remember the post on triathlon mental toughness and dissecting a champion triathletes brain?  Well, it’s time for more on that topic.  Not dissecting, but mental toughness…

Both modern scientists and ancient warriors have agreed that personal toughness, or resilience is closly linked to physical conditioning.  This seems strange to many people, including triathlon beginners.  Where one pursuit seems to be all in the mind, and the other seems to be all in the body, it is in fact not true.  When you race, your will races with you, and at times your will races FOR you … Cuz your damn legs sure won’t.

How do we build this undefeatable will?  Well would you believe that physical conditioning is one of the primary ways?  In this sense, triathletes are made to be tough, and training for a tri is a great pathway to toughness.  

If you remember, toughness is about achieving a sense of mental poise that we call achieving I.P.S or ideal performance state.  This would imply ideal arousal level, focus, resting of focus, and emotional control.  We need this to drown out fear of failure and our own sense of quit that offers the temptation of making our lives easier.  With every step it is offered and every turn of the pedal. 

 I.P.S is about seeing challenges as enjoyable obstacles.  Obstacles that merely make life worthy of the untamed caveman or cavelady inside of us.  I.P.S is about “bring it on” and “no fear” and “just do it” and almost every other sport product slogan ever concieved, all rolled into one!

When you learn I.P.S you can start to win.  You don’t need to be angry to push yourself past your barriers anymore, and your feet fly with the exhilaration that competition fuels us with.  Bring on the competition!  Bring on the fear, so I can squish it!  

This will carry you right up until the point where you are ready to achieve the very goal that you dream of.  The point where your fingers are almost brushing up against your dream and it’s a real possibility to grasp it.  At that point you are so very close … and without meaning to be dramatic, you are, in truth, so far…

Why!?

Because of your self image.  Because of the importance of the goal to you.  Because you’ve looked at others who have achieved that goal (your role models), and felt that they were special.  Having spent month after month admiring the accomplishments of people who have achieved what you really want, it has built the sport psychology equivalent of a brick wall in your mind.  

At the very moment that you have earned the right to compete at the level that you most desire, (and for you, in that moment, the stakes are at their highest) the malignant thoughts of Wayne and Garth creep into our subconscious with a silent scream of “We’re not worthy!”. At that point, the long list of triumphs that we’ve accumulated in coming to that point– Stop … And are followed by the most collosal CHOKE that the world of sport has ever seen.  

The spectators all mutter their armchair comments … “Good athlete, but they choke when it really matters.”  The inability of the athlete to cut the mustard can then follow him like a stigma until one day, the only place where they feel any sense of self worth is at a Star Trek convention.

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but the truth is, this can be devastating.  The lesson here is that our accomplishments can only grow as large as our self esteem will allow.  If you believe that you have all the skills and athleticism to play pro hockey, but still see the NHL’ers  as members of an elite and exclusive club for superior people, I would bet that your career will not be spent in the NHL.

Give yourself permission to be as good as your role models, and give your role models permission to be as human as you are.  We are all just athletes that pour our hearts, souls, and will’s into what we do, and we accept the commendations that come with it … But not too proudly, because we know that our trophies are no more than:

Training + Heart  + Dedication over time = Success… Guaranteed… (for you anyways)

Someday I’ll share with you my choking experience, and if you want, feel free to make a comment on yours.  

…Live long and Prosper…

Remember, it isn’t CUTE to choke…
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