“The optimist sees the doughnut, the pessimist the hole.” McLaundburgh Wilson

You have read that the title of this article is about mental toughness skills and are wondering what a doughnut has to do with mental toughness, right!?! The truth is that how we look at this doughnut everyday has a lot to do with how tough we are mentally and how well we use our skills during training and racing.
Mental toughness can be something that individuals naturally have or something that we need to learn, but the one thing that is the same for each of us is that it is a skill that we need to work on just like the other three disciplines in triathlon. It is a skill that needs to be worked on in training so that we can use it when we are racing. So, where do we get these skills from?
There are mental skills coaches, tapes, books, lectures, and there is your triathlon coach, all of which can help you work on your mental toughness for race day. What works best for each person is different and in most cases is probably a combination of things. You have a favorite quote or a triathlon buddy who mentors and encourages you. You open a triathlon magazine and find a great article on race day toughness. We all have different combinations that work for us and the key is finding what will work best for you come race morning.
Before race day comes though, you need to be willing to work on this ‘4th’ discipline so you can fine tune it and be ready to use it at anytime during race day. One of the best places to work on this skill is when you have a tough training day scheduled. Let?s say that you are using positive self talk to keep you focused and pushing hard through the bike segment of the training. Create a plan of what you will say and at what point you want to be aware of when you may start to break mentally. Right before that break point start telling yourself that you are doing great, you are tough, this workout is making you stronger for your race, etc. Whatever the phrase is that you choose, make sure it is something that you can relate to, that it is positive a
Write these phrases down and put them in places that you will go to throughout your race morning/day. They can be written on water bottles, put on a piece of paper to be found in a special needs bag, or they can even be an object of meaning to you. My daughters have given me treasurers over the years and they can usually be found somewhere in my transition area. Again, this needs to be something of meaning to you, something that gives you strength, confidence, toughness to continue.
Another thing that is often over looked, but remains a key to our mental toughness is simply… how do we approach each day. Do we see the the sun behind the clouds; do we accept rain during a 100 mile ride as just being part of the ride to the point of not recognizing it; and do we make the choice to find something positive in every situation. When I was coaching high school track I would have the girls write down something they did well and something they wanted to improve on after each meet. It is to easy to be critical and then miss the positives in what we have accomplished in training and racing.
Each tough training and race day is not going to go as we have planned, but it is how we approach those days mentally that will help us in the long run. It really is how we get up after falling that defines us as that determines how willing we are to try again. Each time we go ?back to the drawing board? and try again it only makes us tougher mentally and more prepared to take on the o
So, ask yourself… do you see the doughnut or the hole? I know what I see!

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