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It’s OK to Have Doubt

by Mike Groaning

youth triathlete 
The offseason is a great time to reflect on the previous season and work on building your mental muscle. Did you accomplish the goals you set out to achieve? Did self-doubt or negative feelings get in the way of your racing?
Oftentimes, we’re told to remove any doubt from our mind. “Just don’t think about it” or “ignore those feelings” are common ways to deal with negative emotions. But when you don’t address the doubt, it will likely come back at another time.
Doubt is not something negative that we should avoid; it’s an important part of searching for understanding and believing in ourselves.
Let’s say you’re two weeks out from an important race and self-doubt enters your mind. Maybe you’re thinking: I’m not sure I’ve done enough speedwork if it comes down to a sprint. If you avoid those thoughts because you think of doubt as a negative thing, they may come back and affect you during your race. Instead, take the time to reflect on the work you have put in. Think about the speed sessions you’ve done this year and how you’re prepared to run fast. Your faith in the training process will help reduce the doubt.
Here are five things you can practice during the offseason to increase your mental toughness and prepare for a strong triathlon season in 2017.
1. Use EVERY training session as an opportunity to practice your mental skills and focus.
2. Make a goal each practice that relates to a weakness in your previous season that caused you to have doubt in your performance.
3. Begin with focusing on accomplishing one goal a week and then add a new one each week.
4. Find a phrase you can repeat during practice when things get hard, such as “focus on form” during the end or hard part of a swim set or “run through it” during the finish of a hard lap on the track. You can call on these phrases when you face those situations during a race.
5. Keep a journal! Write down the doubts you are feeling and talk to your coach about what you are doing in training that could help you understand how to address them. Next time you have feelings of doubt, try working through them as a positive step toward understanding and having faith in yourself instead of a negative feeling that can only hurt your goals.
Mike Groaning is a USA Triathlon Level II and Youth & Junior Certified Coach and the Talent Identification Coordinator for the Mideast Region. Learn more at

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.