Mental Skills - Adapt and Overcome
We have all heard the phrase "adapt and overcome" but when
faced with a situation that challenges us it takes skill,
practice, and discipline to implement this strategy. To adapt
requires flexibility; to overcome - resolve. These skills
are not necessarily innate, but can be learned and practiced.
A key mental skill of successful athletes is the ability to
push on, even excel, despite obstacles, setbacks, and failures.
A good example is Craig Walton, winner of Saint Anthony's
International triathlon. Craig entered his swim to bike transition
only to find he had left his cycling shoes at home. Instead
of giving up on the race he excelled. Cycling in his running
shoes he caught the pack, passed them, and won the race.
Here are a few ways you can learn to adapt and overcome.
1. First identify exactly what you want and need out of a
situation, and what is most important to you. Many athletes
walk back to transition after having a flat that could have
been changed in a few minutes and got them back into the race.
2. Do not get mired in the problem, look for solutions. Try
to come up with several solutions to a given situation and
then choose the best one. Focus on the solution and how to
implement it; not the problem. What are the consequences of
3. Try to take emotion out of your decision making. It is
easy to get frustrated, angry, and emotional but this really
does not get you anywhere. Again, it causes you to focus on
the problem and not find a solution or it may keep you from
making the best decision. It also makes you look like you
are not in control. I recently observed a racer screaming
at an official to tell him where to turn (as he took the wrong
one). If this person had just slowed down and listened he
would have heard the official tell him "left."
4. Know your opponent. I encourage my age groupers to look
at their opponents' splits from last year to determine how
well they paced themselves. This can help you determine when
to attack and when to hold back. Sometimes minutes can be
made up over your opponent simply by practicing transitions.
Knowing how your opponent reacts to certain situations can
work to your advantage as well. Usually when someone reacts
emotionally instead of logically it will work to your advantage.
Your opponent does not have to be a person it can be a race
course or even yourself. The athletes that know and practice
on the course they will race on have a clear advantage.
5. Show uncommon resolve. You have to believe that no matter
what you will not give up or tire. Once you know this about
yourself you will be more confident in your ability to adapt
6. Don't be afraid to make concessions. You may need to pull
in the flats where you are stronger so that you do not get
dropped in the mountains where you are weaker. You have to
give in order to take. Try to give that which is least desirable
in order to take what is most important to you.
There are many instances in which these skills will serve
you as an athlete and in life. The next time you are faced
with a difficult situation try using some of them. Often,
just choosing and implementing a course of action will help
you mentally as you begin moving through the problem.
Matt Russ has coached and trained athletes around
the country and internationally. He currently holds licenses
by USAT, USATF, and is an Expert level USAC coach. Matt coaches
athletes for CTS, is an Ultrafit Associate, and owner of www.thesportfactory.com
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