How Mental Triathlon Training Works

Results of Mental Triathlon Training

Many triathletes consider the swim the toughest part of a triathlon. Are you mentally prepared?
Many triathletes consider the swim the toughest part of a triathlon. Are you mentally prepared?

When your mind is as ready for the race as your body, you can have one of the best triathlon performances of your life. With mental training, you can keep your emotions under control. This lets you concentrate, avoid distracting thoughts or events, ignore a sense of frustration when you're falling behind, and keep your confidence in check when you're doing well. Mental training also helps you overcome pain, when your muscles are pushing as hard as ever under the pressure of the race.

At the 1997 International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Triathlon Championships, Michellie Jones proved she had trained to handle the mental stress of the race. Jones was knocked off her bike and got tangled up in a fellow competitor's bladed wheel spokes. She recovered and carried on, reminding herself she had done the training she needed to get there and to stay strong. She got weaker through the race, but pushed mentally and physically to finish in third place. It wasn't until after the race that she saw blood on her shoes from the cuts from the cycle incident, requiring a few stitches in each foot. Even though she came in third, Jones was proud that she stayed positive and tough until she crossed the finish line [source: Taylor and Schneider].

Sometimes the success you achieve in triathlon isn't just in the race itself, but the challenges you've overcome to get there. For example, Michael Pate authored a book about his triathlon experiences called "When Big Boys Tri," describing how he went from being a 370-pound (167.8-kilogram) couch potato to finishing his first triathlon [source: Pate]. Also, experienced triathlete Kelly Lear-Kaul decided to put family first after having a baby, and she learned to work family time into her training schedule as she toned her body back into race shape [source: Delcour]. For challenges like these, mental focus during training can be as important as it is on race day.