Triathlon & Mental Health: How to Cope - Part 2

Ask for help

If you aren’t sure, ask. People who can help generally love being asked for help. If you think about it, if someone asks you for help it is empowering and makes you feel valued. People have more respect for those who are prepared to ask for help because they recognise a desire to improve.

Be honest about how you feel. Don’t be embarrassed

Never ever hide how you feel or bottle it up. If someone can’t respect how you’re feeling, is this someone you really need in your life? However, be sincere. Being overly dramatic can seem attention-seeking.

Find an inspirational film and watch it

This sounds cheesy but it really works. Try a film like Warrior or The Blind Side. Music is also a really great way to help you get motivated, especially if you can associate with positive feelings. This could also work the other way and help you stay calm and relaxed before, for example, an open water swim start. This, in turn, will help you be more focused and motivated. Consider getting a coach or mentor who can be there for you.

I’d recommend that you go for someone who offers unlimited contact and is ideally local so that you can spend time with them face to face and build a good relationship with them. A quality coach should be knowledgeable, but most of all motivating. Remember, they are there to facilitate your journey and share their knowledge and help you self-discover in a way that can be effective for you. Them just having knowledge is not enough. They also need an unwavering sense of belief in you, otherwise, you may never believe in yourself. This doesn’t mean someone who only gives you just positive feedback. It’s someone who believes that together, you can reach your goal. Someone who will help you do what it takes to get there in a way that works for you.

Stay away from toxic people, especially ones that pretend to be nice

The modern world is filled with propaganda and political correctness. People behaving nicely and actually being nice are not the same thing. Just because someone seems like a good person, it is not guaranteed that that is who they really are. Some of the most supportive people you can meet may not always come across that way initially. Integrity is who you are, not what you say you are. Just having nice things said to you isn’t always going to add value. People are genuinely good, deep down, are sincere and will truly be there for you when it really matters and won’t have a hidden agenda.

Toxic people will drain you eventually. Take your time to get to know people and give them time. Surround yourself with genuinely positive people. This also doesn’t necessarily mean people who are overly positive on the outside all the time. Some of the most positive people I know are very introverted, but their positivity is infectious. You can feel it and it is overwhelmingly inspiring.

Keep a training diary and record your successes

As well as planning ahead, record what you do. This allows you to revisit these successes yourself or with your coach and reminds you how far you have come. I would strongly recommend Train Xhale. It’s perfect for keeping track of what you do and analysing how you’re progressing.

Go on a training camp

This can really inspire you. Spending a week just focusing on your sport can really help you to learn a lot about yourself. It lets you focus on triathlon without other stresses interfering. You may just fall back in love with tri again.

Put up photos of your experiences

Putting up photos of other adventures and successes will subconsciously create feelings of elation and pride whenever you see them. You may feel this is self-indulgent. Well, who cares? If you worked hard for it and you are proud of it why not celebrate it?

Put away the social media

I am a believer that social media is a great thing. I have many friends that I have managed to keep in contact with because of social media. I also learn so much through it. However, it is also filled with rubbish and can be a time killer. If it isn’t adding value, put it down and do something else constructive. Cleaning your bike chain, meal prepping for the next few days etc.

Get to bed early

Along with exercise, sleep is the best anti-depressant that exists. Go to bed early. If you have been training a lot then you’ll be more likely to fall asleep quicker. If you find falling asleep difficult, avoid TV and social media. Read a book.

Eat healthily, but don’t obsess about weight

A healthy diet will change your mood and physical wellbeing drastically. Avoid junk and processed foods and eat a healthy balance of carbs, protein, fruit and veg. There are lots of fad diets out there but the reality is that elite athletes spend very, very little time obsessing about food and, within reason, eat what they need to.

Yes, race weight matters, but 2kgs really won’t. Sometimes a little extra weight can be healthy.

Do it for you

Sometimes we enter races for charitable reasons, or just with friends. I am certainly not against this, but if you need this to keep you motivated, you are putting a lot of pressure on yourself. If you don’t want it enough without this, then there is a chance you will not end up at the start line then you’ll end up piling even more pressure on yourself and think up a reason why you didn’t make the race. Be realistic, too. Have you given yourself enough time? We all like the idea of finishing an Ironman but three months training just won’t cut it. Don’t chase t-shirts. If your motivation is a finishers t-shirt that you can show off to your mates, then is that really enough? If the journey isn’t the motivation, maybe rethink your goals before you embark on a journey that you don’t really want enough.

Smile

Most of all, smile as much as you can. Don’t underestimate the power this can have. Thank your supporters, the marshals and other athletes who encourage you as you race. Smile at them. The positivity this generates will give you something extra on that big day.

Written by Zone3 Ambassador Tom Ward