Overcoming mental barriers in your next challenge

October 09 2015

Sophie Radcliffe is a fitness, adventure and lifestyle blogger and we asked for her advice about how to face your doubts and fears and overcome any mental barriers when you’re facing a particularly demanding fitness challenge.

You could be justified in saying that I like to challenge myself. I’ve cycled 200 miles from London to Paris in 24 hours, finished Ironman Wales twice, run ultramarathons and completed the world’s first Alpine Coast to Coast by cycling the Alps and climbing the highest mountains in each of the eight Alpine countries over 32 days!

mountains

Throughout these gruelling challenges, learning how to overcome mental barriers and face any doubts and fears has been instrumental in my journey to achieving my dreams.

Whether you’re training for a triathlon, marathon or your first 5K, preparing yourself mentally for the challenge is just as important as training yourself physically.

It’s completely normal to feel fear and to doubt your own ability when you set yourself a challenge that takes you outside of your comfort zone. It’s how we manage these fears and how we control them that changes us and provides us with the tools to fully unlock our potential.

climbing

Here are my top tips and tricks for developing the right mindset to overcome mental barriers:

  1. Harness your motivation: Understand what's your why and dig deep into your internal motivators. Think about how fortunate you are to do this. I love this quote, “One day I will not be able to do this. Today is not that day.”
  2. Distract your mind: Listen to music, audio books and podcasts. When the pain levels increase, your mind will crave a distraction so give it something else to focus on.
  3. Positive reinforcements: Have a bank of positive images, quotes, songs that make you feel good or a message from someone that believes in you to remind you, you can do this!
  4. Let it flow: Sometimes the pain will cause a release of emotion and if I am really struggling with the challenge, the only option is just to let that emotion go and keep on going. In time everything will pass.
  5. Keep on trucking: Just don't stop! Having set ourselves a challenge for a reason, I can only want out because it hurts, so I just keep going, one foot in front of the next. I had a really tough time in the Race to the Stones 100km ultramarathon. I couldn’t find the motivation to contine suffering but deep down I knew I wanted to complete the race. There were tears, doubts, highs, lows, insane pain, but I just kept on going and finished with a smile 13 hours later.
  6. Break it down: Break down your objectives into smaller, more sizable chunks. My 100km had a feed stop every 10km and that was all I focused on. Don't let your mind get overwhelmed by the bigger picture.
  7. Believe in yourself: Probably the most important! Remember that if it was easy everyone would be doing it. It’s supposed to be hard, it’s supposed to hurt but you can get through it and believe me, the reward is worth it. Develop your own mantra and repeat it to yourself in your darkest moments. What you think becomes how you feel. Pain is temporary, pride lasts forever!

Go chase your dreams and turn them into your proudest moments. I believe in your ability to do this.