How to develop a winning mindset

We chatted to sports psychologist, Dr Josephine Perry on our Instagram Live Chat series about how to develop a winning mindset – and staying motivated without races in 2020

How do you keep pushing when everything is telling you to stop, or slow down?

How do you improve your mindset so that you can improve your ability to feel uncomfortable but still push through in training or racing?

A lot of it comes down to motivation, which many of us are struggling with at the moment because the key determinants of our motivation are your goals, and Covid 19 has wiped out all the races.

It’s much easier to get on the treadmill if you know you’ve got a purpose, such as a tough race coming up, and you care about how well you do.

Now we don’t have race goals we need to be more creative, and that necessarily have to be a virtual race. A lot of the athletes I’ve been working with have been setting brilliant goals, to do with mastering their sport.

For instance, you can pick smaller distance target which are still significant and you get a buzz at the end, but you’ve done them for an entirely different reason. Or work on a strength and stability focus to help improve something that has always been typically weak and you’ve never had the time to focus on it.

There are still some challenging virtual races going ahead but without the crowd support and the competition, staying motivated to get your best performance is harder. Do you have any suggestions for this?

In a real race, you might have supporters on the sidelines with banners, but now it is virtual, many people are finding they they have more people supporting and encouraging who wouldn’t normally have been at the physical race. Channel that as you’re racing, or race for a charity. Most of all though, whether it’s virtual racing, real life racing or training, it’s identifying your purpose.

Why purpose is KEY to motivation

I do lots of mental skills strategy sessions with my athletes, but the most important sessions we do are around helping them to understand their purpose, their values and their why, why are they motivated to do the training they do, or the race they have entered?

For instance, I work with a 77-year old woman who was training for Ironman Austria before the lockdown. Two years ago, she became the fastest and oldest Iron(wo)man in the world, when she competed in Ironman France, even though her bike stem snapped so she didn’t even have a seat to sit on.

How did she get through? She wanted to finish the race, not just to be the oldest fastest Ironwoman, but to show older women what is possible. And that is her purpose.

How can you discover your purpose?

Try and imagine, if people were talking about you, what’s the one-liner they would use to describe you? We control our story, and what you want people to say about us is our value and our purpose.

Think about your purpose, what is your passion behind why you run or do triathlon and translate it into a short phrase. That is very powerful.

Be aware that your purpose changes over your lifetime. So if you find your motivation waning, revisit what your purpose is, what’s driving you. Because if you started running after having a baby, and your purpose was to get back in shape, that will have changed five years down the line.

Feeling part of a community

The other areas that really help around motivation is: having a sense of belonging, feeling like part of a community, and really good at what you do.

If you’ve got competence, and you know you can run well, it helps you to feel motivated. And lastly, doing something because you want to do it for yourself, not just entering a race because everyone else is doing it.

You can listen to our full interview with Dr Josephine Perry on our Instagram Live Series about Mental Mindset.

Girls Run the World have several online programmes which help to build confidence in performance and mental resilience, including 30 Day Race Shape Challenge to gain a 5km PB or Smash Your 10k PB 30 Day Challenge.

Six ways to help you develop a winning mindset

  • Practise – how much time you put into training consistently will help you to build mental strategies as your learn and adapt through training and racing.
  • Support – having a network of family members who support your training and and efforts.
  • Culture – surrounding yourself by others, whether in your friendship circle or clubs, who are training for similar events or targets can help you to strengthen your mindset because you are amongst others training and experiencing similar things.
  • Recovery and rest are vital for the body to adapt to training. But if you are well rested, it is easier to stay mentally focused.
  • Balance if you are able to maintain your perspective during training and racing, it helps to prevent anxiety which will affect performance.
  • Mental tactics that you develop while training to help you stay focused on your performance.