How To Push Yourself During Hard Efforts

How To Push Yourself During Hard Efforts

            Your heart pumps, your legs are on fire, and your sweat drops down your face.  While you have hydration, nutrition, fitness, training under control there is one more component…your mindset.  Whether you are swimming in choppy water, climbing a steep hill, closing a gap on the bike, or running towards the finish line, there will be times you need to go harder, and dig deeper, than you ever thought possible – How do you it? By controlling your expectations, focus, thoughts, motivation and body.

Controlling Your Expectations          

            Your body has an anticipatory regulation in place, meaning your brain will tell your body to slow down in order to keep you from harming yourself, regardless whether you have the physical capability of doing the workout or not. This is basically a protective mechanism. The expectations you have for yourself, as well as the workout/race, will have an impact on how well you tolerate pain.  Picture yourself going up a climb…You think you are done after the next corner but the climb keeps going. You need to go further than anticipated and increase your efforts. That’s the point where your brain tells you to slow down in order to get to the top. So, one reason why you explore a race course or mimic the terrain as best as possible in advance is to know what to expect and the amount of effort involved to achieve the desired outcome. Knowing when you will suffer will prevent you from being caught by surprise. You will enter the race with more confidence and be fully aware of though moments you need to push through, BUT you also know you can handle and overcome those obstacles. I can guarantee you one thing, if you expect that the pain will be more than you can handle, then it will be.

Controlling Your Focus

            Control your focus so that the pain does not interfere with your mind. Relate that to the task at hand. For example, count your pedal strokes when climbing, or concentrate on good form via relaxed shoulders and feet. The magic recipe is to know ahead of time where you want your focus to be so that it instantly goes there.

Controlling Your Thoughts and Motivation

            You most likely have experienced a situation where you thought that this is painful; this hurts…As soon these thoughts cross your mind the pain gets worse. Controlling your own messages is the key to tolerating and overcoming an intense effort. Don’t focus on how miserable you feel, instead think of the pain to get stronger and accomplish your goals. Utilize the pain and suffering as part of the training journey. Remind yourself that everybody is suffering. The person next to you might have their game face on but they are hurting just as much as you are. The goal is to practice controlling your thoughts so that they work for you instead of against you!

            There are the times we need to embrace being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Motivation does not come by itself, not in life, in your job or sports, especially if we are surrounded by a busy lifestyle. But…if you want to be good in sports, finish an endurance event, gain fitness, maintain/lose weight, you name it, you need to train. So, what motivates you? Is it the scenery from a particular workout location or is it the numbers that the data in your Garmin will provide? The reason why I am asking is to make your workouts easier and more enjoyable by figuring out which side of your brain you use the most. This will then help you develop motivation when needed.

                  Think about your workouts ahead of time and generate motivation in advance. When the time comes, you can focus on some numbers, or enjoy the views. Someone who is left brain dominant likes order, sequence, and numbers and gets excited about data and analytical conversations. If that reminds you of yourself, then you need to motivate yourself by the potential numbers to be worked and gained within a workout. For example, focus on intervals prescribed for the day, on potential elevation gains, distance to be covered or wattages or heart rates. Think of this before you think about your route and while building motivation for your workout, think about how enjoyable it will be to achieve a certain set of stats. Creative, right brained dominant people are just as competitive but get there in a different way. These individuals focus on the journey and what they may experience during a specific workout. Before the training, think about what experience will bring, with breathing, rhythms, and how enjoyable & beautiful the route will be.

Controlling Your Body 

                  If you have a negative reaction to physical pain your muscles will tense in response, which will utilize more energy, slow you down and potentially burn you out before the end of your race. My best recommendation: Relax! Too much tension = poor performance. The best and most inexpensive tool to get there is to relax your brain. Use your brain to tell your body to relax your hands, shoulders, legs, etc. Take a deep breath to slow down your heart rate and calm yourself down. You are now telling yourself to ease up. Don’t get me wrong, mental skills don’t make up for a lack of physical ability. You need to prepare for putting out big efforts both physically and mentally. The more ready you are, the more confident and efficient you will be. Prepare ahead of time for what is to come and you will take control of your performance and be more successful.


            Mental toughness is an absolute necessity. In order to get there it must be overridden in day-to-day training by appropriately applied discipline so that week-to-week, month-to-month and season-to-season improvements can be realized.

 Try it out tomorrow during the big brick and share your experiences.