Use Your Head to Become a Faster Triathlete

Confidence, positive self-image and optimism are all key factors in determining how you view an athletic challenge and transform it into a powerful performance. Developing a realistic, healthy self-image is the foundation for success in sports.

Once you know yourself well and are confident in your abilities, you're well on your way to realizing your goals in triathlon. Self-confidence gives you the ability to create and sustain an optimal performance state, regardless of the external conditions.

Mary Ellen Clark, one of Americas top divers, has enjoyed a 26-year career in her sport. Before she left her hometown to compete in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, her friends surprised her with a "good luck" party. They gave her a gym bag full of presents to boost her confidence going into the competition. One of the gifts she received was a Wheaties box with a mirror attached to the front.

Clark understood the message. "This way, no matter what happened in the Olympics, I was on the Wheaties box," she says.

Sometimes it takes this type of tactic to remind us of our self worth. Champions have an unwavering belief in themselves and their ability to perform well. Their confidence is so deep it is almost indestructible, unaffected by outside influences. Supremely self-confident athletes are resilient to setbacks, can shrug off pressure and are not easily intimidated.

Mark Allen epitomizes this virtue and its benefits. The six-time Hawaii Ironman champion, has a presence about him an extraordinary self-assurance that can, at times, be intimidating to others. His internal belief in himself is apparent in his outward behaviors.

Fortunately, confidence, just like discipline, courage and commitment, is a mental skill that is learned. Consequently, with practice it can become part of your skill set as well.

Self-Image: The Foundation of Successful Performance

Self-esteem and positive self-image are essential to performing well in triathlon. One of the main factors differentiating humans from other animals is the awareness of self. We have the ability to form an identity and then attach a value to it. We define ourselves by certain standards and then decide whether we like ourselves.

The problems with self-images that so often occur come from the human capacity for judgment. If you reject or criticize yourself for doing poorly in a race, for instance, you'll find yourself avoiding anything that might aggravate the pain of further self-rejection.

So you take fewer risks in training and racing, as well as in social and professional situations. In short, you limit your ability to realize your full potential.

The good news is that you can learn to stop making these judgments and direct your energies toward building a more constructive self-image. You can change how you feel about yourself.

You can learn to recognize your positive qualities and acquire an attitude of acceptance toward yourself and others. Once those perceptions change, you will see improvements in your training and every part of your life with a gradually expanding sense of inner freedom.

Self-Image Assessment

Before you begin to work on yourself, it's important to conduct an honest self-analysis to determine your strengths and weakness. Don't be afraid to put yourself under a microscope. You need to generate an objective picture of the real you the way you see yourself and your current athletic performance. Look in the mirror and ask yourself, "Exactly what do I see?"

You can fool others, but you should not be able to fool yourself. You must recognize your weaknesses and negative qualities before you can even think about correcting them.

1. Create a list of strengths and assets. List your physical attributes, your accomplishments in all areas, your character strengths and the qualities you appreciate in yourself.

2. Identify your weaknesses that you would like to improve. Take care to use only accurate, non-judgmental descriptions. Think about your sports performance as well as general personality characteristics.

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