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Beat The Frown: how smiling improves performance

“Your race photos are ready for viewing”. It’s the line in the email from the race event photographer that grabs us every time. Click. The webpage opens up and …? We look terrible in every photo! Ugh, we don’t need the reminder of the suffering we were feeling! Do we normally look like that while running or cycling? Well, the answer is yes, our facial expressions during an endurance event are typically composed of The Frown. This week a new…

A good WHY is better than good legs

One of the mistakes I see recreational athletes make time and time again after a period off due to work, travel or illness is the assumption that you’ve got to get the legs fit and strong again before you work on your mental game. It’s as if the mental game depends on good legs. The opposite is in fact true. Interestingly, we face some of our biggest mental demons when we are unfit and trying to get back to that…

Beat the heat

The onset of spring brings with it the opportunity to step out of our winter hibernation and to hit the tar and dirt again. Having to contend with warmer temperatures is a natural motivator for getting our legs turning, but there’s a sneaky snag: our bodies do not react well to high temperatures. In fact, riding in the heat has been proven to reduce our performance. Physiologically, heat does all sorts of stuff to us. But the heat issue is…

MentalTip: eyelines can s lay climbing demons

There’s a little climb here in Johannesburg that we affectionally call Cobbles. It’s a 250m stretch of road that used to be as close as we Africa-Is-A-Country Flat Landers could get to experiencing Paris–Roubaix. For many a year we would trek out to that segment and bleed as we hobbled up those faux-cobbles. That was until some local resident grew tired of wearing down the suspension on their Concrete Jungle 4×4 and arranged that our local authorities repave the road.…

Preserve or Protect?

What kind of athlete are you? Do you look after yourself, not getting into any trouble, massaging the throttle carefully? Or do you push yourself to the limit, full gas … and sometimes beyond? Are you the trouble maker in a group? Or do you just try to hang on for when the attacks happen? Do you go at an even pace, keeping away from the red zone? Or do you go as fast and for as long as you…

Does it always have to feel this shit?

You know the feeling, right? It’s the way you feel in the second half of your half-marathon, or a few km’s out from home at the end of a long training ride. Everything is sore, but there’s something more: life just feels shit. Everything irritates you. You just want it to end. And you’ve experienced this more than once. Does endurance exercise and racing always have to feel this shit? I’m not sure it does. Without a doubt, endurance training…

MentalTip: beware fresh legs

Starting an A-race or event with fresh legs after a taper phase of training is essential, but it comes with a risk: you may be digging yourself a hole in the first hour and not realise it. Having the mental awareness of this is crucial to pace yourself optimally. So, why are fresh legs dangerous? The objective of a taper phase (typically two weeks before your event) is to allow your body enough time to adapt to the training stress…

Transbaviaans Survival Guide

Many of our athletes are tackling the TransBaviaans 230km ultra marathon in the coming weeks, some for the first time. Here are our top tips for the ideal mental preparation and how to keep your head about you in the race: taper your brain and prepare for a 50% physical/90% mental game. T-minus two weeks and counting. If you’ve done our 8-week Foundations course, you’ll be fine. If not, sorry for you. Kidding! It’s not too late to get your…

Mental fatigue: friend or enemy?

A recent study in PLOSone has shown that elite endurance athletes have a superior ability to resist mental fatigue. They could complete a mentally draining cognitive task far quicker and more accurately before a time trial compared to amateur athletes. The elite athletes then, once mentally fatigued, could smash out an identical TT time compared to when they weren’t fatigued. The amateurs? Well they performed *worse* after being mentally fatigued, pushing out 4.4% less power. So where does this leave…

Distinguishing between positive and negative pain

Doing what your body tells you to do, or telling your body what to do? An athlete I coach asked me a really important question: how we deal with pain in the context of the MentalWorks approach i.e. if the methods we’re training athlete’s in help block out the perception of pain, and redirect our focus away from it at times, how do we know when we should take action in response to certain pain and when to ignore it?…