Top 10 Newbie Tips for a Personal Best

5. Visualize victory.

The week before your next race, take about 15 minutes at night and get yourself into a quiet place with no distraction. Try to remove all the daily clutter from your mind and visualize the race. See yourself in the water swimming with a strong and steady stroke. Visualize yourself running out of the water and putting on your helmet, your biking shoes, sunglasses and heading onto the bike course.

Did you notice what I just did? I completely forgot to see myself removing my wetsuit. That's why you do this every night before the race. So that at race time you know exactly what you'll do, and how you'll do it. It's a lot easier to go back to transition for your gel in your mind than it is to do it in a race.

The other reason you want to visualize the race is to see yourself winning, or getting a PB or finishing strong. You pick what you want to do, but the first step in reaching your goal is to visualize yourself doing it.

4. Get yourself a great triathlon mantra.

A triathlon mantra is a verbal formula repeated in racing or training in such a way as to innovate a desired outcome. Now that's a mouthful to read so here's the easy Everyman definition: A saying you repeat in your mind to help you overcome those difficult moments.

My mantra is a simple one: "Fast, smooth and in the groove." I know it may sound silly here in writing, but I use this one because it helps me stay focused on the basics.

  • Fast. I want to make sure that I know I'm racing for a reason and that reason is to be as fast as possible. Some of you may not care about being fast, so use a different key word.
  • Smooth. This word helps me remember that I don't want to overdo it. I need to be fast, but at the same time I don't want to bonk or push myself beyond my limits.
  • Groove. This keyword is to help me remember all that training I did, and I use it especially to focus on form. To me groove means to maintain that long swim stroke, powerful bike pedal rotation, and perfect running form.

Just as importantly, I use the mantra when my thoughts turn negative. You know--when the pain, heat and distance all conspire and threaten to make you crack. At that moment I say out loud "STOP" and switch my mind to "Fast, smooth and in the groove." Give it a try, I bet it'll work for you as well.

3. Write down your goals.

If your goal this year is to break a three-hour Olympic-distance race time, write down 2:59 on a bunch of Post-It notes and stick them everywhere. Put the note on your refrigerator so you see the goal when you're going for that unneeded snack. Stick one on the rear-view mirror of your car for a reason to get to the club for a swim after work. Put one on your computer so you'll remember to head out the door for that cold-day run.

More: How to Set Inspiring Goals

A recent study concluded that people who actually wrote down their goals were something like four times more likely to achieve them. So pick a goal and remember to make it measurable and attainable. Don't forget to stick it on your spouses or significant others' forehead (or any place that you're likely to want to see often) so that you'll never forget your goal.

2. PEDs: Performance enhancing drugs.

I'm not talking about such banned substances as EPO, steroids and even the ultra expensive HGH (Human Growth Hormone). However, over-the-counter drugs like Advil, Tylenol and Motrin do a great job of numbing some of the pain from a lifetime of sports injuries. I use Advil after a long race to help reduce the swelling in my joints. As with all medicine, please consult your doctor first.

1. Lose weight.

I've always wanted to write a book called How to Lose Weight Fast. The book would only have three chapters: Eat Less, Exercise More and Maintain.

If it's that simple, why do so many of us fight the battle of the bulge and lose? Logically, we all know what must be done (eat less and exercise more) and yet we try the newest diets, eat the newest low-cal foods and go to all kinds of extremes to shed the increasing pounds.

I really need to add a few chapters to my book, two to be exact: Be Honest and Stay Motivated.

When I'm trying to lose weight, I turn into a massive liar and I develop an ability to rationalize things that would make Kirstie Alley proud. What's worse, the harder I try to lose weight, the more I lie to myself.

More: Weight Loss Tips From the Pros

I come up with all sorts of rationalizations for my poor eating habits like, "I just ran for a half hour so I can eat this peanut butter cup or "It's OK to have this burger, fries and chocolate shake for lunch since I'll be going for an extra-long swim tonight." The problem is that by "tonight" I get tired and that extra-long swim turns into an extra-long nap. Be honest with yourself.

I hope this short list will help you crush your previous best. Good luck. Now I'm on my way to the pool...or perhaps I need snack and a short nap first.

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Roman Mica is an amateur Clydesdale triathlete who lives and races in Boulder, Colorado and has his own website; www.EverymanTri.com. He is also one of the founding members of www.raceAthlete.com. He has a book published, entitled My Training Begins Tomorrow: The Everyman's Guide to IRONFIT Swimming, Cycling & Running.

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