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Beating Your Demons

By Joe LoPresto

swimming“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

How many times in your life have you missed your goals and been frustrated? If you’re like most of us, it’s been many, many times. So how do those few athletes that seem to be successful on most days do it? They do it by beating their demons!

Demons are the voices we all have in our head that hold us back. Those “I can’t do it!” voices that take our head out of the race before we even get started. They are the voices that compare us to others and convince us that we are not as good, that we are not worthy of success. That maybe we just have not earned it. Those demons make us fail.

Successful athletes know how to control these internal voices and maintain a can-do attitude at all times. So how do they do it? Are they gifted mentally as well as physically? The answer is no. All they’ve done is set proper goals and stay focused only on those goals. They don’t set unrealistic goals or focus on things that are not within their control. Can it be this simple as it sounds? Yes!

Let’s look at proper goal setting. Often times we set race performance time targets that are not based on our current capabilities or past performances, or we do not take into account course conditions or weather.

One common example is the runner that decides to do a first marathon in less than 4 hours. When asked how they picked that time, the answer is something like the following:

  • It’s a nice round number.
  • My buddy did it in that time and I think I should be able to do that too.
  • I did a half marathon in 2 hours and 1 minute, so with more training and harder work I should be able to do double that distance in less time, right coach?

These all might sound fine, but none of them are relevant to the actual capabilities of this athlete. Nor do they take into account things that are outside of our control, like the weather or course layout. All through training and during the race the athlete will be trying to shoot for a goal that is most likely not going to happen. This adds a significant amount of stress and anxiety.

The defeated feelings start to dig in and take control of everything. The extra stress reduces the performance level and almost ensures that failure will occur. That stress and pressure could even be high enough that the athlete over trains for the race and gets injured. They never even make it to the start line.

Proper goals in this example would be a list of objectives that the athlete can control and accomplish:

  • Start the race at an easy pace and build speed later.
  • Stay in control and follow the race plan all the way to finish.
  • Conserve enough energy to finish strong instead of slowing down or walking.
  • Have fun before, during and after the race. Enjoy the journey!
  • Say something nice and support others that are struggling along the way.
  • Keep positive thoughts or images in your mind to push the pain away.

Once the proper goals are set and practiced throughout all of your training, you’ll have much higher odds of success during training and on race day.

So, what would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

This short saying starts to take on a more powerful and deeply profound meaning. It has to ability to really set you up for success; you just cannot fail if you set your goals correctly. Success is guaranteed. Every race and every day in life can be a winning day for you!

So what are you going to attempt next?

Joe LoPresto is the Founder and Head Coach of Experience Triathlon Coaching Services. He is a USAT Level II coach with over 25 years of experience and has held various leadership positions at Life Time Fitness, Nike, IBM and the Boy Scouts of America. Joe specializes in the development of high performance life skills and personal power. Learn more about Coach Joe and Experience Triathlon and

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.