Self-Trust and Triathlon

By Ross Hartley | June 26, 2018, 1:33 p.m. (ET)

The person you talk to the most is not your significant other, not your son or daughter, not your best friend or even your dog — it’s yourself. This self-talk is fueled by your thoughts which then creates your attitude, and your attitude then influences your actions.

Self-Talk, Attitude, Actions.

This is a never-ending cycle that determines how you view the world and the events around you. This self-talk reveals one’s self-trust. Self-trust is belief in one’s ability to succeed in specific situations, also known as self-confidence and self-efficacy. Self-trust is the secret ingredient that can make or break one’s performance in a variety of situations, including triathlon.

A high level of self-trust is a requirement for success in triathlon. During the conversation one has in their head during training and racing, a belief in one’s self and performance is a necessity. Self-trust can be built, maintained and strengthened through consistent and intentional repetition, otherwise known as purposeful practice. Purposeful practice of self-trust consists of five steps: 

Begin with the end in mind.

What do you want? To become? To do? Your future first begins as a narrative that your brain tells you. What are you telling yourself? I personally use and advise my athletes to use the goals-targets-outcomes framework. Goals represent items that are completely under your control (I’m going to follow my fueling plan during my IRONMAN). Targets are items that you have a little bit less control over but are directly related to your training and therefore can be predicted very closely (pace and time). Outcomes are items that you have the least control over and are actually an outcome of your goals and targets (qualification and pace). 

Clarify and define the required process to achieve your previously stated goals. 

This could be creating a clearly defined annual training plan that is built around your goals-targets-outcomes. The more clarity with the plan, the more likely they will be achieved. The key being to make the plan unambiguous and right on the edge of your current skills and desired skills — pushing the edge of your current capabilities. 

Do the required work that your desired outcome requires. 

Quite simply, follow your annual training plan and complete your planned workouts. The not-so-popular secret to success: work as hard as you can for as long as it takes. Every desired outcome in your life has a required response. The bigger the desired outcome, the more difficult and longer it will take to give the required response. 

Let your success in preparation fuel your self-trust during the race. 

Consistently and repeatedly training to the very best of your ability creates and fuels a courageous mindset. This is called acquired self-confidence. During the race, do what you have repeatedly done — revert back to your training and habits. Don’t prove how good you are, be how good you are. 

Learn from the race and apply this knowledge for the future. 

The race outcome is feedback on your preparation. If you do not perform how you wanted to, that is the feedback that your preparation was not sufficient. Take this information and begin again more intelligently. 

The best way to acquire self-confidence is to do exactly what you are afraid to do. Sometimes you act because you are confident. Your confidence fuels your actions. And sometimes you take action and then build your confidence because you have acted. Confidence is built by action. Both of these require action, you taking the first step to begin the process. Taking action leads to more actions. Opportunities multiply as they are chased.