Saturday, April 14, 2012

Training your mind is as important as your body

Tuesday I had one of my best workouts in a long time.  I got outside on my bike for the first time in months.  I worked hard too.  But, the truth is, that ride, in itself, wasn't that significant in terms of getting stronger physically and mentally.  It was more like a reward for the work I'd done prior.

Yesterday's ride was significant.  I'd missed Thursday's training because of an afternoon dentist appointment that left me grumpy and tense.  Truthfully, I used that as an excuse, and getting in even part of the training in the time I had left probably would have brought me to a better mindset.  Instead, I ended up taking a day off, following my scheduled rest day on Wednesday.

So, Friday, when I should have been getting a 1.5 hour ride out of the way, I put it off.  Before I could even start, I had to change my rear tire back to the trainer tire.  (We've had a big dump of snow, so no riding outside right now.)  That was just depressing.  

My kids are old enough now that I could have done it early in the day while they played, but I didn't.  I didn't do it after lunch either.  Then, it was time for supper.  In my defense, I did at least manage to change that tire once I had supper going in the oven.  I can't train immediately after eating, so enter the whirlwind of children's bedtimes.  By the time that was done, it was 8:00 pm.

I know very well that the time of day, that I have the hardest time with motivation to train, is in the evenings.  And, that is the only time I had left.  Thank goodness for the most important part of my support system: my husband.  He didn't have to tell me to suck it up and ride my bike, but I knowing he would have was enough to get me down there.

And, unlike most workouts, once I was going, it wasn't easy to keep going.  I don't know if it was the monotony of the trainer after the excitement of the road, but it took constant diligence to stick it out for the full time.  A few times, I took a short break to practice clipping in and out (I like the speedplay pedals, but they feel different then the shimanos and I find the left side a bit stiff to clip in and out.)  I have my garmin set to autopause, so it just postponed the inevitable: the full 90 minutes still had to be done.

It was tempting to cut it short.  Nobody would know but me, right?  But that's the thing, I would know.  I remembered something that Angie said during a bike class when somebody jokingly suggested not doing the final interval: if you don't finish, the entire workout is for nothing, because you know you didn't do it.  

Physically, it might not matter that much.  The effect on my body from a single workout in my training cycle isn't going to be that different if it's 75 minutes or 90.  Mentally, it matters.  Quitting becomes a habit, and if you train to quit, it gets easier every time.

In the end, I finished the 90 minutes.  Instead of training my mind to quit, I trained it to stick it out even when I didn't want to.  It was hard, but I did it.  Maybe next time, I'll also remember that putting it off doesn't make it easier.


  1. Great post on mental training. Often times the most important training component. I have countless training runs where I am half way through a run and I want stop, not because I am physically spent, but because I lose mental focus. That is when I have to dig deep and re-engage my brain to "get er done". Good job with your mental training session!

  2. I totally agree with you on the mental training. My worst barriers are never physical, unless I'm's always the mental barriers. I now always decide ahead of time what I'm gonna run, and unless something really horrible happens, I don't stop until I've done the distance. Fatigue does not count.

    Way to go getting in bike training!

  3. Assuming you've reached a certain level of cardio fitness, in the longer races the metal aspect is much more important than the physical aspect. Once you're body learns that you aren't going to stop just because you're tired, it will stop complaining about being tired. Or not complain as much. The trade off is that when it's telling you something might be injured, you have to pay attention. It might mean changing something so the niggle goes away, or slowing down for a bit, or even speeding up, perhaps pausing to stretch, retch, or deal with other biological imperatives.

  4. Those tough workouts like that, the ones that really push us mentally are definitely the ones that are the best. Because come race day when you want to quit, your mind says no!!!

  5. Way to win the mental battle! Sometimes winning those tough mental battles makes the workout seem that more satisfying.

    You are so right. Besides the three physical swim, run, and bike disciplines there are the mental, nutrition, and recovery disciplines.

  6. You learned a great lesson today that some people never learn. Congrats!

  7. Reading "Iron War" right now and it has a lot about the mental aspect of doing endurance training/racing. I'm proud of you for sticking it out!

  8. i love this post!!! next time i want to give up i'm going to stop and think about it and that i'm training myself to quit rather than pushing on...awesome!