How to prepare your mindset for racing

Prepare your mindset for an injury
● Anticipate
"Every sportsman and woman is at risk of an injury". Like every other sports activity, race walking is demanding on the muscles and joints. Yet, despite being aware that repeating the same movement can sometimes lead to injuries, we always find it difficult to take.

“ The best is to prepare yourself for the possibility of an injury. It can happen at any time and you need to know how to react properly ”.


"Every sportsman and woman is at risk of an injury". Like every other sports activity, race walking is demanding on the muscles and joints. Yet, despite being aware that repeating the same movement can sometimes lead to injuries, we always find it difficult to take.

 The best is to prepare yourself for the possibility of an injury. It can happen at any time and you need to know how to react properly ”.

● Accept

Any injury will necessarily require rest. You have surely experienced tendinitis, contractures or periostitis (the speciality of the walkers!) and although the obvious solution is to get some rest, we can be our worst enemy by being too keen to start walking again before we are ready.

"As an athlete, it is natural to want to return as quickly as possible, but it is never good to hurry these things. Our body is our raw material, we must take care of it."

When faced with an injury, patience is the best attitude to adopt. Bear in mind that 2 to 3 months of rest only represents a tiny part of your entire lifetime. Don't you agree? So, you have come to terms with your injury.

"Very soon, we need to understand that our condition is temporary. Without this, we feel sorry for ourselves and waste the time we have available. What's more, by accepting the situation, we have already started to bounce back”.


● Bounce back

Bouncing back means thinking about the future, but primarily about the present. You are injured, the doctor has reached their conclusion. Once you have got over the frustration, the first thing you need to do is to organise your recovery: book your appointments with the physiotherapist and other specialists who can care for you, and rest.

Once the medical aspects have been arranged, and despite your inability to achieve your set objectives during the period of your injury, set yourself new objectives!

"you need to use the injury as a source of motivation, give it meaning and remain open to choosing new objectives. So you can't enter a particular race? Never mind, you will be there next year, thinking: how fortunate I am to be able to walk, here's my payback!"


Prepare your mindset for a below-par performance*

*When the result is not the one you expected. The sportsman or woman feels that they can do a lot better than what they have achieved.


● Adopt a practical mindset

When this mental preparation plan (anticipate, accept, bounce back) for an injury is also applied to a below-par performance, a fourth tool is involved, namely the analysis.

The mental preparation involves what is known as feedback, i.e. reviews, debriefs.

"After each objective, working alone or with a coach, you need to analyse the race to find out the causes of what went wrong. The objective is to provide solutions and improve."

Regaining some positive energy and finding out what can be quickly improved, this is the challenge of a practical mindset. In other words, the positive mindset helps you to attain  the best version of yourself.

● Recharge your (three) batteries

Yvonnick talks about three batteries: the mental battery, the physical battery and the technical battery.

"Typically, the metal battery is when you think, "they are better than me, I am not making any more progress."

The physical battery is, for example, low when you are sick.

And the technical battery is depleted when you lose a race walking competition because you get three red cards. And these batteries are not only useful for sports. Indeed, they are useful for all of us."

Working together on these three batteries is guaranteed to be fulfilling. "It's important to keep your mental battery at a high level at all times. Indeed, this will help you to reboot after a failure, all the more so because a failure does not prevent you from winning or failing in the future." For that matter, coaches don't like the word failure. They prefer to talk about an "imperfect performance because you need to make a few mistakes before achieving the perfect performance!"


Prepare your mindset for victory

People often talk about mental preparation when dealing with failure, or an "imperfect performance" in this case. But when you win, there are also some good habits you should build!

● "Get back in training"

An expression that comes straight from the jargon of mental preparation is to "get back in training". This is important given the danger of being distracted by the euphoria and feeling of having arrived that sometimes occurs after a victory (not necessarily coming in first place, we are all victors of our own objectives!)

"Beware of the feeling of invincibility which can lead to a reduction in preparation! Getting back in training and holding your course involves thinking about all of this: physical and mental preparation, self-confidence, relaxation… etc." and humility!


● Picture yourself!

“ Even in my wildest dreams, I would never have imagined winning," this cry from the heart paves the way for every possibility and, although it is not a lie, it is not actually true. Indeed, winning involves seeing yourself already winning in your mind.

"In race walking, in order to have the perfect technique that leads you to victory, you need to imagine yourself doing it." These powerful images, suffused with success, contribute significantly to your victory! "The key is not to think that you CAN win, but that you WILL win."

Prepare your mindset to "have a strong mindset"

Have you ever made a bluff? If yes, how amazed were you when you saw how effective the bluff was on the person being bluffed and who lacked the same audacity as you? Indeed, if there is something that we must learn from body language, it is that you must never give up!

"When you overtake someone, you are giving them some information about your current condition." Look relaxed and you will notice how most people will find it even more difficult to keep up the pace! And for good reason, they have allowed themselves to be unsettled by your current form (apparently, excellent), as if you are eating into their reserves just by overtaking them. That's why you need to be focused and convey the right information (not necessarily the real information), to the right person, at the right time!


● Keep in mind a portfolio of powerful images

When things start to get difficult and the body tires, the mindset takes over. "When something is upsetting us, it is crucial not to focus on it. Think about something else."

These other things mentioned by Yvonnick are anchoring images (positives). "This could be a beautiful view witnessed during a hike, a thrilling experience or a special moment, as long as they inspire confidence and appeasement. For those who need to be more aggressive, picturing a lion or a tiger chasing gazelles can help you fully restore your motivation."~Talking to yourself can also help. It's up to you to find the right words to reassure yourself!


● Work on your mindset everyday!

If you want to know how elite walkers train every day, several times a day,regardless of the outdoor weather conditions, even when they don't feel like it, this is the answer: discipline. These sportsmen and women train their mindset not to get demoralised/demotivated. 

“ Mental preparation can be part of a lifelong plan and can be practised everyday. Just like using appropriate phrases to re-energise you during training or racing, the right words for instilling values to your children also need to be learnt!"

Everyone of us has a particular mindset. It can be stronger or weaker depending on the importance given to it. It also varies from person to person and fluctuates over the lifetime of each person.

"It is often said that mental preparation represents 50 % of performance, but this depends. For some, it will be only 10 %, for others 80 %." 

One thing is for sure: a healthy mindset needs to be developed through hard work in order to turn us into accomplished walkers! It is the same for everyone.