Why Fluffy Motivational Slogans Won’t Help Your Mental Strength – But These Tools Will

Training and racing

Jun 06
Mental strength tools for women who live in the real world

“Feel the fear and do it anyway”.

We’ve all seen that slogan and many others like it slapped onto a picture of a beautiful landscape and shared across Facebook and Instagram. But seriously…

What a load of $hit.

One of my biggest pet peeves in the health / fitness / sport space is the way we (as an industry - I’m taking about coaches, gyms, nutrition and supplement companies - basically anyone trying to sell anything) shares these images across social media in an attempt to kid themselves - and, by extension, you - into thinking it’s “helpful”. That if you heed the fluffy advice, you’ll crash through your mental and physical barriers and achieve your dreams.

As I said, what a load of $hit.

Don’t get me wrong; I love a good motivational quote just as much as the next person.

But my objection is that they don’t go far enough and they aren’t particularly helpful in the real world because any motivation or courage you gain is fleeting at best (and certainly forgotten by the time you’ve scrolled further down Facebook) and won’t help you in the exact moment you need it.

When you’re second-guessing a decision you’ve made.

When you want to enter a race but put it off, waiting until you feel confident or “ready”.

When you wake up on race day so full of nerves and doubt that you can’t eat breakfast.

When you line up at the start of a race, look around and think “shit, everyone else is so fit. I don’t belong here”.

When you’re in the swim during a triathlon, take in a mouthful of water and your mind suddenly goes into panic stations.

Pretty-to-look-at images plastered with (supposedly) motivational slogans won’t help you in THAT moment.

That’s why one of the goals of #SpartaChicks is to share practical and tried-and-tested real world advice you can actually use when you need it the most.

So in this post, I thought I'd go back to some of the strategies, tools and tactics I've shared over the last 12 months - along with a few new ones - and share how you can use them in your own life to make real improvements in your mindset, self-belief and confidence as well as real progress towards your goals and dreams. 

During training

(1) Pay attention to your inner dialogue – your thoughts, stories and doubts. How do those stories hold you back?

Awareness of these stories and they way they hold you back is critical if you’re going to move past them  and you need to move past them, otherwise they will always hold you back.

Maybe you’re telling yourself that you’re mentally weak and that you always back off and can’t push yourself when times get tough. Tell yourself that story enough and guess what? You will.

So not only, find ways to put yourself in situations so you can challenge the validity of those stories, re-write the stories you’re telling yourself into something more, positive, factual and constructive. (Get your copy of the Overcome Your Fears Guide which will walk you through the process step-by-step).

(2) Look over your list of acts of everyday bravery. Remind yourself just how brave and strong you are.

(3) Spend some time visualising the outcomes you want. 

Picture yourself staying calm and relaxed in the water. See yourself finishing the swim and getting out of the water feeling excited, even ecstatic, knowing you’ve done it. Hear the cheers of your family and friends . Positive visualisations will leave you feeling more calm, confident and relaxed on race day (leading to a better performance).

(4) We all worry about what other people think – it’s human nature – but be honest with yourself about the people whose opinion matters.

This is one of the most powerful exercises I’ve used when the thought of what others might think creeps up on me. I’ve used it a number of times over the years; from when cowards, um I mean, commentators were leaving anonymous, negative comments on my blog posts to my upcoming podcast.

Brené Brown recommends writing down on a (small) piece of paper the names of the people whose opinion matters. Quite simply, if someone someone isn’t on the list, their opinion doesn’t matter and you shouldn’t use the fear of what they might think to hold you back.

For me, there are 6 names on my list and I know those people will always be proud of me and love me regardless of whether the podcast turns out to be the best decision of my life — or the worst 🙂

​Want to download a copy of this post so you can save the list of tools to use in the future?

Click here to download it now!​

During your race...

Use your mantras or your new “stories”.

During the swim, remind yourself that you can swim in a pool so you can swim in open water. On a technical trail run, remind yourself that you love hills or stairs (that’s one of my mantras). Remind yourself that “you’ve got this” — because you do 🙂

These simple shifts  can have a profound impact on your confidence, performance, how you handle anything that doesn’t go according to plan and even quite simply your enjoyment of it. Plus given that your mind dictates and controls your body, you’re more likely to have a better race result too. (Tip: the more times you’ve practised this in training, the easier and the more strength you’ll draw from them on race day).

After the race...

Debrief by asking yourself 2 questions: What did I learn from the experience? And what did I do well? 

Ask any of your friends after their race how it went and you’re likely to get a list of 10 things that didn’t go to plan and 2 things that went well.

I heard 6x Hawaii Ironman Champion Dave Scott tell the story of when he was coaching (now 4x World Champion) Chrissie Wellington after she broke the Ironman World Record for the first time.

They got on the phone immediately after the race and the first words out of her mouth were “I didn’t ride as fast as I would have liked”.

By debriefing with these questions you realise that you successfully executed lots of small components of the race (perhaps you nailed your nutrition or your stuck to your plan for the entire race plan), allowing you to walk away satisfied even if you were initially disappointed at the result. Remember, success doesn’t require perfection.

Just like your training makes your muscles stronger, your mindset, courage and bravery and mental strength grows the more you take deliberate steps to improve it.

Which of these tools do you need to implement into your training and racing? Leave a comment below and let me know.