Return To Racing – The Mental Side

Guest Blogger: Andrew Bednarzik (MA, LPC) // Riverbank Counseling and Coaching

Getting Back in Gear – The Mental Side to a Return to Racing

The pandemic has taken many things from our lives, among them the ability to safely gather to race, compete, and commune with fellow athletes in the ways that we used to. Many of us rely on exercise to keep our spirits up, provide structure, and plug into a community of like-minded people. Not having access to this (or limited access) has been very challenging for so many people.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind as this new period of the pandemic unfolds:

  • Listen to your body as you assess how best to train
  • There continues to be a lot of unknowns – try to focus on what you can control
  • Set process oriented goals
  • Find the joy in what you’re doing on a day to day basis

Listen To Your Body

Return To Racing - The Mental SideAs an athlete, you know your body. Listen to it as you are deciding how to train. If you’re starting to train more or planning to start racing again, you’ll likely make some sort of training plan (runners seem to like plans!). Continue to monitor the signs that your body is giving you, especially if you’re ramping up your training, and adjust accordingly. I don’t need to tell you that injuries are no fun, and as athletes everywhere are returning to their sports, the risk of injury is higher. Many athletes are experiencing the feeling that they’ve “lost ground” or “gotten behind” in the past year, which can lead to overtraining or pushing themselves too hard. If you’re experiencing this, it’s totally normal, and be aware of how much you are willing to buy into it. You are where you are and pushing harder than is reasonable likely won’t serve you.

Focus On What You Can Control

I know, you’ve heard that before! I find it to be a particularly helpful reminder these days as there continue to be so many things that are out of our control. You may be training diligently for an event that gets canceled. The feeling that the rug got pulled out from under you can be demoralizing. Maybe you lay out a training plan only to discover that you’re more out of shape than you thought. Continue to pay attention to where your energy and attention are going – are you dwelling on what you wish would’ve happened or focusing on what you can do?

Set Goals

Return To Racing - The Mental SideGoals can be an excellent way to keep yourself motivated and moving in a positive direction. One way to categorize goals is process-oriented versus outcome-oriented goals. Most people tend to set outcome-oriented goals – I want to be in the top 5 in my next race. They help provide direction and give you something to strive for. The downside of outcome-oriented goals is that they are not within your control. You cannot fully control whether you get into the top 5 in your next race. There are many factors that are out of your hands – namely the other competitors. So in addition to outcome-oriented goals, I encourage setting process-oriented goals as well. They are goals that are fully within your control – like I will do my PT exercises Monday thru Friday for three weeks in a row or I will drink 85 ounces of water per day. It is empowering when we meet our goals and it helps build momentum towards our next goal. By focusing on process-oriented goals, you will be more likely to meet your goals and build on them.

One more point about goals – try being curious and creative instead of judgmental and self-critical. There’s nothing that squashes momentum quicker than harsh self-criticism when you don’t meet a goal. Even if there’s some motivation that can come from being hard on yourself, it’s not sustainable. Be kind to yourself and be curious about your goals. If you didn’t meet one, what can you tweak that would help? How can you be creative in how you’re approaching it that will increase your likelihood of success? There are enough upsetting things going on in the world without you hammering yourself for missing a morning run.

Find The Joy

Find the joy in what you’re doing on a day-to-day basis. As we all know, life is less predictable these days. One way to help let go of what we can’t control is to seek out fulfillment in the things that we are doing. Find small wins, enjoy the feeling of getting out onto a trail for a run, appreciate your body for the things that it can do.

Now that the prospect of racing, events, and gathering in larger groups may be on the horizon again, are you feeling hopeful, skeptical, excited, apprehensive – all of the above?! You may be skeptical that we are actually going to be able to gather in the same way. Skepticism can be a healthy protective mechanism for us. “Let’s not get our hopes up too much in case it doesn’t work out” could be a mantra for the pandemic. Maybe you’re feeling optimistic that things will return to some version of “normal”. There could be fear – is it safe to gather again? When will it be safe? Judgment and guilt are common feelings these days – what’s the “responsible” thing to do?

These are all understandable responses and likely you are experiencing some combination of them. We have many parts of ourselves operating at different times – driving the bus if you will. My suggestion is to be compassionate towards all of these parts you, all of these responses, while at the same time being intentional about which parts you want to feed. How do you want to approach this period of time? How do you want to continue the process of engaging in exercising, racing, and gathering as a running community? Being intentional about this process will help you feel more empowered. Everyone is dealing with these decisions in their own way and it’s valuable to think about how you’d like to approach it.

About the Author

Andrew-BednarzikAndrew Bednarzik (MA, LPC) // Riverbank Counseling and Coaching

Helping athletes and entrepreneurs thrive is one of my life’s passions. I have been in the business of helping people overcome their challenges for the last 15 years. Through my private counseling practice, Riverbank Counseling, I help people realize success in their professional, academic and athletic pursuits. Performance coaching with athletes is a big part of my practice, and I’ve recently launched a business coaching practice to apply the skills and techniques I use with athletes to help entrepreneurs succeed.

I completed my Undergraduate Degree in Psychology at Columbia University where I played 4 years of Division 1 soccer. I’m a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor with a Master’s Degree in Community Counseling from Western Carolina University. The focus of my coaching is helping people identify what’s holding them back from being successful and implement changes that will help them overcome those hurdles. Mindset, movement, mindfulness, and purpose are several areas that I focus on with clients.

About Glory Hound Events

Glory Hound Events was started in 2006, initially managing the historic Bele Chere 5K. Shortly after that first year, the Lake Logan Triathlon was introduced and eventually became a part of the Lake Logan Multisport Festival. Glory Hound Events is now the largest endurance event management company in the Western North Carolina region, producing an average of eighteen events annually. In addition to producing its own events and those for a variety of clients, Glory Hound Events offers consulting services for events outside of Western North Carolina looking to take theirs to the next level.