Performance in Mind with Dr Perry

For those of you unable to make the Sunday session with Dr Josephine Perry (Josie) on goal setting for the season, here is a quick recap. Josie has competed regularly in triathlons over the last 12 years, and in recent years studied to become a sports psychologist. A moment that developed clarity for her career change, was on the start line of Ironman Melbourne back in 2013. There was a resounding fear amongst competitors, wondering what battering the waves were about to unleash. When the starter announced over the tannoy something that struck a chord with Josie “You can’t control the waves, you can control how you feel about them.” This is an ethos that Josie takes with her when helping clients to set goals. So let’s think for a moment what ‘goal setting’ actually is.

What is goal setting?

Goal setting takes place when you aim to attain a certain standard of proficiency on a task or event within a specific time limit. Goal setting is used by all Olympic athletes and has been found in study after study to improve an athlete’s performance, increase motivation, commitment, concentration and confidence and reduce negative anxiety. It has also been found to help athletes manage pain and discomfort effectively.

Taken from Performance in Mind website.

Whether this is your first season in triathlon or you’re a seasoned pro, setting out goals at the beginning of the season, as you know will help keep you focused and give you something to aim for. Josie talked about different types of goals that we use to map out our training.

Outcome goals, which should be set to help achieve a desired outcome, for example at an event, usually a specific ranking or placement. This should focus on your A race. But the key is being realistic, Josie gave the example, if both Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee set the goal to win gold in the Olympics, they both know only one of them can win or both can fail. The point being you can’t control other’s performances, only your own. So focusing your goal on specific times allows control.

Performance goals, are used to achieve your outcome goal, this could be times you need to achieve in training or qualification events to race.

Process goals, help achieve your performance goals, through developing techniques, strategies individual tactics, which in turn help deliver success of your overall goal. For further details on the different types of goals see the link below.

Process goals are where Josie believes you have the most control, and where support in some cases can be beneficial. This could be anything from anxieties felt pre-race, to feeling nervous when descending on your bike. How we handle these situations can lead to a more enjoyable experience, which after all is why we choose to partake in the sports we do. Although a certain level of nerves can help your race performance, too much can hinder. There are many techniques to explore, so don’t feel disheartened if the first you try doesn’t work for you, the beauty and annoyance of being human there’s not one carbon cut-out to fit all! Below is a link to another article by pro-cyclist Evelyn Stevens, talking about good and bad anxiety for anyone interested.

Josie also discussed when we fall foul to injury, a common occurrence with endurance athletes. A study she conducted on mental toughness involving 700 participants, showed that 90% confirmed they had suffered injury in the previous five years. Most injuries with her clients originate from niggles that get ignored and then develop into something more serious. Over-training, also being another common injury causer. Knowing when to train or when to give yourself a break is a daily tightrope, but she couldn’t emphasise enough how often it can lead to prolonged injury and illness if ignored.

Another area Josie works on with athletes is to focus on positives and imagery, instead of solely concentrating on what you need to get better at, think about how can you improve on your strengths. Then take this through to race day by not focusing on your weakness, for example, how hard you perceive the swim is going to be. Instead focus on your strength, if this is the bike, concentrate on how great you’re going to be during that part of the race. Aiming to distance yourself from the negatives will help relax the mind. There are some great resources that can be found on Josie’s website to get you started.

For any of you who are interested Josie holds workshops and 1-2-1 sessions with athletes. The links to her website are posted below, along with a goal setting worksheet. The lessons we learn from the sport we do, so often is interchangeable with other areas of our lives. Any questions, drop us a note below in the comments or grab one of our coaches. Lastly, happy goal achieving for 2016!

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