Triathlon and Mental Health: How To Cope – Part 2

Last week, Tom from Passion Fit shared some very insightful, useful and actionable tips on how to cope with mental health issues within sport (view part one here). This week, we bring you Part 2 which continues  in the  same vein…

ASK FOR HELP – If you aren’t sure, ask. People who can help love being asked for help. 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 are feeling, is this someone you really need in your life? However, be sincere, being overly dramatic can seem attention seeking

FIND AN INSPIRATIONAL FILM, VIDEO AND WATCH IT – this sounds cheesy but it really works. This video from Ironman gives me goose bumps every time: Try a film like Warrior or The Blind Side. Music is also a great way to help you get motivated, especially if you can associate it with positive feelings. This could also work the other way and help you stay calm and relaxed before that 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 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 belief in you, otherwise you may never believe in yourself. This doesn’t mean someone who only ever gives positive feedback. It is 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 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 who are genuinely good deep down and sincere 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 introvert 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 is perfect for keeping track of what you do and analysing how you are progressing.

GO ON A TRAINING CAMP – This can really inspire. Spending a week just focusing on your sport can 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 YOU 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 SOCAIL MEDIA – I am a believer that social media is a great thing. I have many friends that I have kept in contact with because of social media. I also learn so much through social media. 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 – clean that chain that needs to be degreased, prepare tomorrows meals 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 you will hopefully fall asleep quickly. If you find this hard, avoid TV and social media, read a book, preferably one about a sporting hero.

EAT HEALTHILY BUT DON’T OBSESS OVER WEIGHT – A healthy diet will change your mood and physical wellbeing. 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 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 charity or with mates. I am certainly not against this but, if you need this to keep you motivated, you are putting lots 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 and then you will pile even more pressure on yourself thinking 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 won’t cut it. Don’t chase T-shirts. If your motivation is a finisher’s T-shirt that you can show off to your mates, then is this 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. Do not underestimate the power this can have. Thank your supporters, the marshals and other athletes who encourage you as you race. Smile at them and the positivity this generates will give you something extra on that big day.

PassionFit is a fitness coaching and personal training business based in Cheltenham. They offer a variety of services and work with athletes from total beginners to elites.