This is the third of four planned articles in a series focusing on mental health among athletes. Articles are written by Dr. Mitchell Greene, a clinical and sport psychologist. He takes a more humorous tone with this article, to help you plan your 2019 New Year’s resolutions with a smile.
It's a fact: Humor is one of the best ways to stave off stress and turmoil. This offseason is a good time to ask yourself if you’ve laughed enough at yourself for all the likely silly things you’ve done in an effort to get to the pool, get out on the bike, and fit in your runs.
If your answer is "Not so much," consider making a New Year’s resolution to lighten up where you can, and find others to share a laugh with about this game you play called triathlon.
Below is a list of sarcastic tips for triathletes. Or, put another way, what not to do in 2019.
1. To make race day as exciting as possible, and to avoid having to warm up at the race site, wait until the morning of to pack your tri bag. Pre-dawn striders from the clothes line in your basement to your tri-bag in your bedroom is the ultimate pre-race adrenaline high.
2. The race expo the day before the event is a great day to push yourself as hard as you would in the race itself. Mentally tough triathletes show up first to the expo and are the last to leave. The “get off your feet” mentality some espouse applies to those who haven’t trained as hard as you have. Here’s a helpful mantra: “I own the expo!”
3. Don’t bother practicing in open water prior to your race. Swimming outside before race-day will spoil all the potential surprises that come with a triathlon. A heated pool, lane lines and a hot shower afterward is the 100-percent best way to mimic real race day conditions.
4. Visualize yourself underperforming on race day. Through the process of reverse psychology, you will probably be very successful. (This mental approach to racing triathlon hasn’t yet been shown to work, but you may be the first to pull it off.)
5. Since you already know how to ride a bike — you learned at age 6 or something — why not wait until the week before the race to borrow your neighbor’s tri bike? How different can one bike be to the next? And, the discomfort caused by his bike shoes being too small for you will force you to pedal faster and finish sooner. It's a win-win, pedals down.
6. If your legs are feeling really good as you taper for your next race, it means something might not quite be right, and you should make up new race-day goals. Trust me, you would be better off ignoring your coach’s overly conservative advice about sticking to the original game plan. The coach obviously doesn’t realize that you are going places!
7. Start comparing yourself to others as soon as you get out of your car. Focus in on how your helmet looks different than others, and how much calmer everyone else appears to be. After all, frequent comparisons are the best way to understand why others are better than you and can teach you where you need to improve in 2019.
8. Throw out those new-age recommendations about “embracing the pain.” This season is about out-toughing the pain. When your legs are aching, create an even more painful picture in your head, like when you had food poisoning, so that the actual physical pain seems like nothing in comparison. Embracing the pain is for wimps!
9. Race directors will never admit it, but they love hearing from athletes who haven’t read the athlete guide. They understand you have trained for three sports, and that reading an entire athlete guide is just asking way too much of you.
10. The best way to build confidence is to do your toughest workouts a few days before your race. It is worth the effort, even if on race day your legs feel like lead. Besides, if worst comes to worst, you can have a built-in excuse and can claim that you “accidentally” trained too intensively.
Dr. Mitchell Greene is a clinical and sport psychologist, located in Haverford, Pennsylvania. For more information on Dr. Greene and his services for triathletes, go to greenepsych.com.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.