There was a great article in Triathlete Magazine (Aug 2013, Jesse Thomas pp 38-39) about ways to positive talk yourself through a race. The longest I’ve done is International Distance. But after swimming up to a mile, 20 plus miles on a bike and halfway through a 10K run, yea you did need to do some self-talk. It doesn’t have to be athletic, believe me I’ve had to push through some grueling days at a desk, traveling, I’m sure you’ve had plenty of days wherever your work day happens when you feel like you’re literally hanging on by your finger nails.
Jesse Thomas defines a sports mantra as: “…a positive word, phrase or image that an athlete repeats to himself to combat fear, doubt and pain during training or competition. A simple mantra example might be, ‘I can do this!’ or ‘I look amazing in these aviators.’ … They can be used before (‘I am superbly prepared’) or during ((‘I am the pain king’) training and racing to calm your nerves, balance the inevitable negative thoughts that creep into your brain and ultimately, make you go faster and stay positive.” Now Thomas has done many triathlons and is a three-time Wildflower (one of the premier events in triathlon) Long Course champion. So I’m sure he knows from whence he speaks.
I think the applications of this are obvious in probably any areas of our lives. Hey let’s face it, it’s not just the workplace, moms at home with kids, I know I’ve been home with kids and thought I was going bite through my lower lip.
“…I think whatever creates a repetitive, believable, positive image for you works, but here are a couple of general qualities I’ve found in my mantra experience:
1) Keep it short and simple…
2) Relate it to your successes. Mantras are most effective if they help you recall other successes you’re had. That could be a great workout, a strong race…whatever recalls a time you got through pain and doubt.
3) Stay positive and realistic …I think my best mantras are ones that acknowledge my doubts balanced with positive reinforcement to overcome it: ‘This is hard, but I own hard…”
“…If I remember that all I have to do is get through this moment and keep myself from projecting an outcome (staying in the now) it doesn’t seem so bad and relieves the anticipation of potential failure… if I tell myself I’m tearing through this while I’m in the pain cave, for some reason it makes it easier. Yes, it hurts, but I’m asking for it and kicking it… I’ve found it’s best if I say these out loud as well, which has the extra benefit of psyching out your competition!”
Yes, there are times when we just have to tell ourselves, “I own this”, “I’ve done this before and I’m stronger now”, “wow, what great scenery and I get to run through it”. Triathlons do have some great venues, I would love to do “Escape to Bermuda”, just watching it on TV you can tell the course is really striking. Point is, there is much you can hang on and push through but as Christians we have so much more and much more than a mantra. We are talking to our omnipotent Lord, this week I am preaching on 1 Corinthians 6:19: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,…” I am not telling you that the Holy Spirit is going to power you through your next Iron Man, He could if He chose to, but God is not in the business of overturning the natural laws that He created, although He certainly can. But I am saying that no matter what you are dealing with, you are a temple of the Holy Spirit, you are a child of God the Father and you should remember that. Hey I’m always going to be a “back of the packer”, but I’m still out there doing it, I’m still striving and I hope in some way God will use it to His glory. Or He will help you to push through a bad day with the kids, or at your desk, or on the work site, where ever/whenever.
We’ve been talking about “hesychasms” in some of our groups at church. This is where you recite something like; “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy” so often that it just becomes that background program running on your heart, it comes to the surface whenever you need it, it’s constantly on your heart, you are constantly talking to the Holy Spirit whose temple you are. As Christians we can reach out during a race to our Father in heaven and I’ve done it, “This is the day that the Lord has made”, appreciating everything He’s doing in me. How much more can you be encouraged? But I’d sure like to see a day that the Lord has made in the “Escape to Bermuda” Triathlon. Anyone out there want to sponsor a back of the packer? God bless, and remember, sure, keep those positive ideas in your head through your “races”, but always remember as children of the Father, we should always be looking to Him and trusting in Him, quoting Paul: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) That’s not just happy self-talk, that’s inspired talk from God Himself.