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It’s OK to lack confidence

8 September 2016 3 Comments


If there is one single factor which influences the outcome in a long endurance race more than all the others, it’s confidence. I’ve seen hundreds of people perform below their potential because they were too cautious. From first year age groupers to pros, the ability to trust your training, trust yourself, and roll the dice on race day and see what comes up is a huge asset.

None of us are going to be fully confident of the outcome when we “roll that dice”. If we wait until we’re fully confident, we’ll never do it. We have to build as much confidence as we can by doing all the little things, as well as we can, while doing every session on the plan.

Many of us hold off doing things because we lack the confidence to make the first move. Guess what, it’s natural to have doubts, have fears, to imagine all the possible things that could go wrong. We have evolved as a cautious species, that’s why we evolved, because by being cautious, we didn’t meet an early end and had the chance to breed.

Pep talks, motivational seminars and self help books are only going to raise our confidence level for a short time, then we’ll revert back to where we were. There’s no valve we can turn on to increase confidence and turn off the doubts.

Any coach will tell you, consistency is the single most important path to improvement. With a consistent approach, that’s turning up to every session on your plan, doing all the little things, the body simply gets good at doing what it’s being taught.

Many of us don’t realise that while the body is being taught to do the specific tasks that we’re training, the mind is accumulating confidence. Confidence is built piece by piece. In fact the confidence to push ourselves, to step outside the comfort zone, comes from stepping outside that comfort zone a little at a time, before we actually have the confidence.

A good example of this is when we ride a roller coaster. The first time we ride it, we hold on tight, we took a risk by lining up to get on it, but we overcome our fear and lined up. The second time we ride it, we don’t grip the panic bar quite as tight. The third time we ride the same roller coaster, we don’t even need to hold on.

By actually going to an amusement park and trying this simple game, we can get a handle on how quickly we can build confidence. Confidence is built by doing. Doing what you’re scared to do, but doing it anyway.

If you’re lining up for your first Ironman race, or lining up for your first Hawaii Ironman, expect to feel a little scared. Expect to go through all the possible things in your mind that could go wrong. Expect to handle them as they arise, if they ever arise.

Feeling like this before a major challenge is natural. It’s human behaviour. One of the reasons we’re attracted to this sport is to put ourselves into this scary position, then go ahead anyway. The satisfaction we feel when we run down to the finish line, is the reward for being scared and going ahead anyway.

So don’t expect to stand at the start line fully confident of pulling off the best possible result. Being aware of how we build confidence, step by step, facing fears and going ahead anyway, we will gradually accumulate more and more confidence. It doesn’t matter how much we build there’ll never be enough to wash away all the fears and doubts.

Courage is not the absence of fear, it’s the mastery of fear, it’s going ahead despite the fear.


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