Mental Skills for Racing: Part 1
With the Australian summer racing season right around the corner and the Northern Hemisphere racing season wrapping up with some big races coming up it’s a good time to start thinking and acting on improving your mental skills.
Do you know most athletes spend less than 10% of training time focusing on mental aspects? Yet at the pointy end of the field mental preparation can mean the difference between winning and losing.
Could implementing mental skills this season be the component that helps you qualify for Kona or improve your PB this season?
As I’ve done a Sports Science degree I’d better throw in a little Sports Psychology jargon into the mix, when you are training a new skill (physical or mental) you‘ll go through four different levels to reach mastery…
1. Unconscious incompetence (Not thinking or not doing the skill)
2. Conscious incompetence (Thinking about the skill but not getting it right)
3. Conscious competence (Thinking about the skill and getting it right)
4. Unconscious competence (Not thinking about the skill and getting it right)
Remember when you started to ride a bike with clip-less pedals - we all forgot to unclip the first couple of times and fell off. But after lots of practice you don’t need to think about unclipping and the skill happens naturally (or almost naturally).
What’s the above mean for an age-group or grade athlete? Mental skills require as much training as training as physical skills to master and the ultimate aim is to be so proficient with the skill you don’t need to think about doing the action or task.
What level do you think you are at now?
So, what are some mental skills that can be integrated into you training, competition and outside of sport to improve performance?
1. Time management,
2. Communication skills,
3. Goal Setting,
5. Arousal management,
6. Concentration & Focus,
8. Imagery, and
9. Mental toughness.
What is a Fartlek Session?
Fartlek means “Speed play” and is a type of interval training which I’ve found to be more flexible for beginner runners and race specific for advanced athletes. The session can be done on all types of terrain (roads, trails, and hills) away from the running track.
A simple session for beginner athletes wanting to start running is the Telegraph Pole Walk/Run. After a 15-20mins Warm-up building to a quick run start the session by choosing a section of telegraph poles. On each telegraph pole segment pick up you’re running pace until you’re at relaxed quick run, but not all out, in-between telegraph poles and back off to a walk for half the segment then build up to a jog before reaching the next telegraph pole where you take off running again. Repeat for 10-15 minutes before doing a good 15 minute cool-down walk.
One of my favorite fartlek sessions is - Mona’s Fartlek
15-20mins Warm-up building to aerobic threshold
Main set at Tempo (10km Race Pace)
2x 90sec on 90sec steady recovery
4x 60sec on 60sec steady recovery
4x 30sec on 30sec steady recovery
4x 15sec on 15sec steady recovery
15-20mins Cool-down to walk
Don’t forget after hard training to eat or drink something with a bit of protein and carbohydrates (chocolate milk is perfect) within 20 minutes to improve recovery.
And enjoy the training.