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Mental Skills for Triathlon. Iowa HEAT Workshop Cathryn Lucas-Carr. About Me!. PhD student in Health & Sports Studies Working toward AASP certification as a Sport Psychology Consultant Runner & triathlete!!!. Why Mental Skills for Triathlon?.

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Mental skills for triathlon

Mental Skills for Triathlon

Iowa HEAT Workshop

Cathryn Lucas-Carr

About me
About Me!

  • PhD student in Health & Sports Studies

  • Working toward AASP certification as a Sport Psychology Consultant

  • Runner & triathlete!!!

Why mental skills for triathlon
Why Mental Skills for Triathlon?

  • Triathlon – 3 sports (or 4 if you count the transitions!!!) in one

    • Do you have a discipline that you’d say is your weakness?

    • You might find that mental skills will help!

  • Lots of time out on the course stuck inside our own heads!!

    “Maintain your strengths, train your weaknesses”

Mental skills for physical activity competition
Mental Skills for Physical Activity & Competition

  • Focus & Concentration

  • Negative Thought Stoppage & Positive Self-Talk

  • Overcoming Mistakes or Setbacks

  • Relaxation, Visualization & Imagery

  • Controlling Emotions & Anxiety

  • Goal Setting

    • Training Strategies

    • Race Strategies

Focus concentration
Focus & Concentration

Internal, Narrow External, Narrow

(Rehearse) (Act/React)

Internal, Wide External, Wide

(Analyze) (Assess)

Focus concentration1
Focus & Concentration

  • Workshop Practice

    • 99s

    • Walkabout

  • Which were you able to better concentrate during?

  • During periods with “no distractions,” did you find your mind wandering?

    • What did you think about?

Focus concentration2
Focus & Concentration

  • Practice at Home

    • Counting breaths w/ and w/o distractions

    • Word searches w/ and w/o distractions

  • Practice while training

    • Think about a specific topic for 30 seconds without interruption (build from there!)

    • Bring your focus to various parts of your body, and complete “status checks”

    • Play “I spy” games while training

What happens when the workouts are just really tough
What happens when the workouts are just really tough???

  • Internal Thoughts

    • Focus specifically on how your body is feeling or technique

    • Control breathing, count strides, strokes, RPMs

  • External Thoughts

    • Turn your attention away from screaming lungs/muscles

    • Have a “go to” thinking subject

    • Play internal decorator to the houses you pass

  • Other Strategies

    • Break the workout/race into do-able sections

    • Mantras


  • Short, self-affirming phrases to help you stay focused and/or get you through the tough spots

    • Keep it Short & Simple

      • One sentence or less

    • Keep it Positive

      • Moving toward a goal or challenge

    • Keep it Energized

      • Use action verbs or adjectives

    • Provide Instructions for yourself

      • Get up this hill!

Negative thought stoppage positive self talk
Negative Thought Stoppage & Positive Self-Talk

  • Self-talk is a way we internalize our environment, thoughts, and behaviors.

  • Our self-talk often reflects our mood, and can often spiral out of control. This is called negative self-talk.

    • With negative self-talk, many athletes talk themselves out of a good performance.

  • We can develop positive self-talk

Negative self talk
Negative Self-Talk

  • How can we stop negative self talk?

    • We can learn to recognize our triggers and intercept negative self-talk before it begins!

    • We can create positive affirmations to reinforce our confidence!

    • We can replace our negative thoughts with positive ones!

    • Learning positive self-talk can keep us relaxed in a variety of situations!

Negative thought stoppage
Negative Thought Stoppage

  • Specific strategies for reversing negative self-talk

    • Recognizing when we are starting have negative thoughts

    • Thought stoppage w/ physical or verbal cue

    • Replacing a negative thought with a positive affirmation

    • Performance reviews and achievement reminders

Visualization imagery
Visualization & Imagery

  • What is Imagery?

    • Seeing yourself performing & rehearsing a skill

    • Imagining yourself competing in a specific situation

    • Not just seeing: Incorporate sounds, smells, tastes, & feelings

    • Reproduction of ALL sensory information that produces a skill

How do you do visualization
How do you do visualization?

  • Maintain a positive approach. Picture yourself completing the skills well, the perfect pass or shot.

  • Image in ‘real time’. Imagine yourself completing the skill at the speed you would normally complete it. Timing is a critical part of sport, and getting your body prepared for ‘real time’ situations will help you when those situations arise.

  • Feel the movements. Focus on how all the muscles involved feel during that skill, how your equipment feels. You should really feel as if you are in the situation.


  • Transition Visualization

    • 1st: visualize the set-up of your transition

    • 2nd: visualize yourself going through the transition, from the swim exit, to your transition space, and out the bike start.

  • Visualizing a problem or setback can help you stay calm and deal with it when it happens

    • Taking care of a flat tire

    • Your reaction to “dead legs” on the run


  • Staying relaxed is a good way to ensure a good performance.

    • As with the other mental skills we must PRACTICE relaxation

  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a good way to learn how to feel when your muscles are relaxed

    • Then you can do “targeted spot checks”