You say you are tired? Don't feel like training but need to because race season is here? Yeah, I said these same things today as I approached my Team EMC swim practice. I wasn't feeling it. Head hurt from pulling a muscle in my neck, was yawning and well, you know the rest of the story. I showed up to swim practice but wasn't expecting anything great.
Why is this? Because qualitatively, I have taught my mind to assess my physical state. If I'm not feeling good, I still go into a session with a good mindset and I definitely do not sabotage myself by saying, "I'll just go easy today". I think far too many athletes do that and create negative self-talk scenarios which can lead to a subpar performance state. Instead, when I feel like this, I actually get a little angry ("healthy" angry) and have a psyche up session in my head. It goes something like this...
"I may not be feeling it today but I am going to prove to myself that my mind is wrong. I don't feel tired. I feel energized and ready to go. My form feels good in the water. In fact, I am going to do everything in my power to prove my brain wrong today."
Yeah, I really do have this dialogue in my head before training (and sometimes during!). Does it help? Most of the time it does. You see, I believe many of us give in to the small aches, pains, body signals or destructive thoughts that enter our mental and physical states.
The only true way to know if it worked is to look at the quantitative side of training. For me, this morning, it was the clock and Coach Susan Williams. Even though the entire 1.5 hours of swim practice did not qualitatively feel right, I was quantitatively fast. Extremely consistent in my times and faster at the end of the workout than I have been in a while.
So, what gives? How can an athlete not feel good yet still put out good results? Easy. Your mind is your biggest obstacle. Control it and you will likely control the outcome of your training session.
Next time you encounter this, try a bit of positive self-talk and see what happens. You may surprise yourself!