How To Improve Mental Health, 5 Lessons From My Triathlon Training

mental health improvement

Most often when we talk about health, we tend to consider the physical aspect of it. Very few of us actually think about the other side of the coin, the mental health. In reality, all of our aspirations, whether be it athletic, weight loss or even success depends on how well we can move past our mental blocks.

There’s no such thing as failure. Only results. – Tony Robbins

In fact, I have written an article on how losing weight is a mindset. It’s not what you eat or how much do you exercise. How you think mentally projects itself externally. That’s how much power your mind has over your body.

We all look at the elite athletes with wonder. Some of us even put their successes only on their physical capabilities. The fact of the matter is the majority of their glory actually comes from what they think in their heads. That’s why I always emphasize the mental aspect of any resolution.

That’s why, mental training is as much as important, sometimes, even more, the physical one. Throughout my journey, I have gone through a mental transformation which helped me in my Ironman journey as well. How did I do that? Let’s find out, shall we?

Visualize success

Visualization is a very powerful tool. When you can visualize a realistic goal in your mind, more often than not, it becomes a reality. That’s why it’s good to put yourself in a different person’s shoes. When you watch an athlete perform, don’t just watch him, imagine being him. The pain that he endures and the amazing achievement it brings along with. When you use that empathy along with your goals, the success becomes tangible.

Just a couple of days back, I was talking with a journalist from Kaler Kontho. He was asking me who inspired me for my Ironman journey. I said I’m self-inspired, although he asked me again to make sure. He expected that I would name some sportsman of whom I got inspired to be a triathlete. When you have a tangible goal, you feel motivated on your own. You can feel that sensation of success and nothing is stronger than the smell achievement.

How you look yourself matters

Do you consider yourself as a winner or a loser? Do you think you are lazy? How you answer such questions actually define your goals and successes. A simple example- none of us is actually lazy. It’s how our mind thinks. If you think you’re lazy, you’ll be lazy. If you think you’re a failure, you’ll be a failure.

That’s how powerful our mind. So if you’re training for an event or want to get fit, your first barrier will be from deep within. There will be times when you’ll question yourself or your activities. Just be confident in the outcome that you planned. Tell yourself that you can do it when confusion and doubts set in. When you can think positively, that energy beams externally as well. You’ll be more confident in your own abilities.

mental health comfort zone

Use the 5-second rule

There’s a rule of thumb that any decision that you make happens within the first 5 seconds. The more you linger on after that, chances are you are not going to do that. Did you notice that this rule is more evident when you are in an intense training schedule?

Imagine it’s 5 o clock in the morning and you need to wake up for a pre-scheduled training session. “Should I wake up or not? I’m feeling a bit tired after yesterday’s session.”- the longer you wait; you’ll notice that more negative thoughts will come flooding your brain. You’ll feel tired, you’ll create excuses and after 5 seconds, you’ll find yourself pressing the snooze button.

Don’t stall in such situations rather make a positive decision. Did you ever notice that when you put something off, later on, it irritates you? When you can get past those decisions, it’s more rewarding mentally. So be decisive.

Improve self-awareness

We all know this common proverb, “Know thyself”. In reality, how many of us actually put this into action. We all need to be aware of our strengths and weaknesses first, especially mentally. Only then we can figure out a roadmap to enhance or improve those factors.

It is important to identify situations that you find difficult to deal with when you’re training or in a competition. In the beginning, you’ll find it a bit difficult or frustrating to change your natural way of thinking and behaving for such situations but with time and self-awareness, it will become natural.

Lots of people ask me how I can control my food. I love to eat food and when I want to eat a lot, I do. But I have trained my mental awareness in such a way that it doesn’t overpower me in my decision making. So, I’m not avoiding food forcefully as part of the diet, rather my mind is trained not to act as the default. It’s just one example from my experience that how self-awareness can foster good habits.

mental health for growth

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes

This is one critical aspect that sabotages our mental growth. If you want to win or conquer a challenge, you have to have the mentality to accept mistakes along the way. Mistakes are your way to learn more about yourself. If everything goes smoothly, chances are you didn’t learn something new. Hence if you face an unexpected situation on race day or in an important moment, that mistake can cost you more both mentally and physically.

Also, we have a tendency to avoid mistakes because of failure. When we make a mistake, we take it upon ourselves as a failure. We go back to the old ways and our mind wins over. We get stuck in the loop of doing the same old things. When we make mistakes, that is the time to refocus and bounce back quickly to keep the momentum going. Taking risks is part of developing a winning mentality.

Yes, I make mistakes during my training and I do beat myself up for those. Injuries, fitness plateau etc. were a huge part of my past mistakes. On a positive note, I take them as practical learning and part of self-coaching.  So, I keep pushing my boundaries every day. Through such experiences, I discover how much I can do and what needs to be avoided. Knowledge is power and what can be better other than learning from experience.

In conclusion

Mental health is a huge topic to cover. Every person is different so do their aspirations. Make big goals and chase those targets. There will be mental blockades, accept them. Train your mind in the process. You’ll come out as a stronger person on the other side of your achievement. If you struggle mentally, feel free to communicate with me. I’ll be happy to listen to you and help you with your goals.

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