Limiting your Self-Limits

Group of swimmers about to start an Ironman race
July 29, 2016

Will Murray


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What do you do when you tell yourself, “I can’t do this.”?
Many athletes find a time when they talk themselves out of a good training session or race. Their bodies maybe up to it, but their minds somehow shut down their performance or limit them in some way.

It doesn’t have to be this way.Here are two things you can do right now to limit these limiting thoughts.

Pull it Apart
1. Think of some limiting self-talk, a phrase that comes into your mind telling you that you can’t do something. Make sure is has “can’t” in it.2. In your mind’s eye, see the phrase hanging in space in front of you so that you can read the words.3. Expand “can’t” into “can not.”4. Now turn on and off the “not” and notice the difference in how you feel about this phrase.

Who’s Talking?
Many athletes learned their limitations from others. Somewhere way back in the past, a teacher, sibling, parent or coach told them that they couldn’t do something. Unfortunately, when we are at a young age and someone in a position of authority tells us something, we take it as literal truth. And that belief can stay with us, hidden in the foundation, affecting a lot of how we believe in our abilities.

Fortunately, we don’t have to live with these erroneous beliefs anymore.

Try this:
1. Think of a phrase that comes into your mind that limits your abilities. It might be triathlon-related or about something else in your life. This phrase might be, “I don’t belong here,” or “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m really lousy at this.” Or it might be, “You’ll never do this,” or “You’re a quitter.”
2. Listen carefully to this phrase, two or three times, to hear whose voice is saying this. Many athletes instantly report that it is their own voice, but upon listening closely detect that it is someone else’s voice, or sometimes a blend of theirs and another’s. One athlete heard a blend of his older brother. Another reported, “That voice resembles my mother’s somehow.”
3. Make the other person, the one whose voice it is, show you their fortune-teller’s license. Oh, they don’t have one? Okay, then they are not qualified to make this prediction, is that right?
4. Think of someone who has your best interest at heart, who wants the best for you. Think of what encouraging and true thing that person would say about your abilities.
5. Say thanks to all these parts who are talking with you.

There is a set of deeper techniques that take five or ten minutes which can profoundly and durably alter these limiting beliefs and self-sayings, but these two will bring you instant positive change and unlock a lot of extra potential.

Mental Skills are often referred to as the 4th discipline in triathlon. Will Murray, D3′s mental skills expert, has helped athletes overcome all types of obstacles during training and racing. From open-water swim fears to feelings of self-doubt during a long training day to so much more. Do something about those pesky thoughts that keep you from being your best and consult with Will Murray.

Mental Skills Performance Coach Will Murray often hears triathletes saying that the sport is at least 50% mental and 50% physical, but he has come to notice that athletes spend very little (if any) time doing mental training. Fortunately, it’s easy and fast to train-up your mind to help you achieve your triathlon goals. He’s been lucky enough to bring mental conditioning techniques to first-time athletes and Olympians, kids and seniors, triathletes who want to finish the race, and those who are gunning to win.

Will is a USAT Certified Coach, holds a practitioner’s certificate and more than 100 hours of advanced training in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a certified administrator of the Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories Protocol. Will is co-author, with Craig Howie, of The Four Pillars of Triathlon:  Vital Mental Skills for Endurance Athletes and Uncle: The Definitive Guide for Becoming the World’s Best Aunt or Uncle.

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