How to Overcome Fear in Triathlon

How to overcome fear in triathlon

Sports Psychology Tips: How to Overcome Fear in Triathlon

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Do you have a sense of dread at the start or during a triathlon?

I’ve been fortunate to support a large number of triathletes who have experienced a range of psychological challenges with a common theme – fear.  Some of the following things were mentioned in our conversations:

“I’m frightened at the start of the swim whether I’ll get whacked and it will throw me off course.”

“I worry about maintaining momentum on long inclines on the bike”

“When the pressure is on at the end of the run I start looking at my opponents more. I’m frightened they’ll catch me and I’ll let my coach and parents down”

These observations have led me to do some more research into common psychological challenges faced by tri-athletes.  It’s a project I’m working on so I’ll keep you informed on the results.

Getting back to the point.  Often when it comes to fear our thoughts are irrational.    In my mental toughness development work outside of sport I’ve been fortunate to chat to soldiers and police officers who experience frightening situations on a regular basis.

If you’re about to be attacked by a bunch of thugs or are being shot at in the battlefield you have every right to be frightened? – YES

This adds some perspective I hope…… let’s think about other situations that may scare us.  Heights are an issue for me… the dark, public speaking, crowded spaces, fear of flying are all pretty common issues for people.

Now, let’s think about this when it come to triathlon – specifically cycling…… Fear breeds tension in the hands, wrists and arms, shoulders, back and then has a huge negative impact on our rhythm, balance and timing.   Think about it – in training people are generally more relaxed than they compete.   They then go on and cycle their best times and frustratingly sometimes go to pieces in competitions.

What is the solution to this fear?  How do we calm down our overly sensitive brains?

Here are 3 tips:

  1. Breathe

Yes, it’s simple, very simple – but it works, when we get fearful, our breathing changes and makes the problem intensify.  Focus on deep diaphragmatic breaths to calm the brain down and ‘re-set’ its reaction.

  1. Train under pressure

Put yourself under pressure in training.  Do not just swim, cycle or run to kill time.  Create targets, have mini races with others, make your training tough.  Putting yourself under pressure, regularly creates immunization. If you want to go quicker, more consistently and under pressure this should be a MUST.

  1. Face your fears

Instead of focusing on the problem and doing nothing about it.  Recognize it is an issue, face your fears.

Ask yourself these questions:

What am I NOT doing when swimming, cycling or running that is being ruled by FEAR?

What do I want to change when I train and compete?

How will making positive changes to my Mindset impact on me?

Now think about putting in place and focusing on key processes and routines that can help you.  These processes can become a lifesaver when you’re under pressure.   They really do allow you to relax and trust your skill set, especially when they are practised.

I’d be grateful if you could pass this article on if you feel it is helpful to other triathletes or for regular updates to help improve your performance levels why not sign up to “The Mental Edge”.

To get in touch for one 2 one Sports Psychology Coaching with a Leading Sport Psychologist, David Charlton, based near Newcastle – Face to face, via the telephone, SKYPE or online via email available.

David Charlton Sports Psychologist Newcastle

Best Wishes 

David Charlton

Sports Psychologist located near Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK and willing to travel Internationally.  Managing Director – Inspiring Sporting Excellence.  With over 10 years experience supporting athletes, coaches, parents and teams to achieve their goals, quickly.  

T: +44 7734 697769

E: [email protected]

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