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  • Writer's pictureAP Sheshy

Training Tuesdays: Changing your Mindset

I don't always accept a social media challenge that often. Even with the #10yearchallenge, I didn't really have anything significant that I wanted to share (apart from my dog, Luna). That is until I thought about my own mindset.

10 years ago: I had only discovered cross-country (running) and I felt pretty excited about its. I definitely struggled both physically and mentally, on and off the track and trails, but every now and then I would experience a breakthrough, like I did in a year and a half later into the sport.

There's one significant moment that occasionally comes back to remind me how much I've changed. My cross country teammates and I were on the bus to a meet. While quite a few girls on the bus were complaining about how they drank way too much water and asked how long before we got the race start, I tuned out for few minutes. I wasn't feeling all too great. Actually, I was feeling quite nervous and antsy. So, I closed my eyes and started to envision myself racing, and everything went wrong in that "race". I tripped over roots and face planted the ground; I got elbowed too many times to count; I had to stop and walk; my back would cause me excruciating pain; but I continued to run. Before the "race" in my mind could finish, "Burge" (our coach), had called for our attention.

Later that day, I was out on the course racing my hardest, and finished the 5k under 20 minutes for the first time ever. Granted, it wasn't an official 5k marked course, but it was something that I was really excited about at the time.

From Cross Country to Triathlon
2010 vs 2018: From XC to Triathlon

If I stopped my story here, you would think that I was in the beginning stages of learning how to mentally prepare for an event. But that is not what I took away from this experience. In fact, I believed (wrongly) that by thinking negatively, I would have a good race. This belief sent me had sent me down a rabbit hole, and it has taken me a considerable break from running, help from coaches, teammates and friends, and a trip to Colorado to realize I took away the wrong lesson from this experience. Don't get me wrong, visualization is an incredibly powerful tool, but just like most tools, it can become incredibly destructive if used in the wrong way. And I'm not saying that you must think positively either. Rather, you should think proactively.

A year ago, I had the chance to hear from high performance psychologist Dr. Craig Manning about what makes up up performance. The brain is still very plastic. Even as an adult, it's constantly pruning, adding, and reinforcing synapses. So, it makes sense to have a proactive and growth mindset that will help you...well, grow, in your performance, both in life and in sport. When you train mentally, you need to practice having a growth mindset, building your confidence, concentration, and mindfulness. Dr. Manning mentioned 4 principles you should keep in mind when you're developing your mental performance:

1) Practice makes permanence (not perfect).

- Think about every habit you have: drinking coffee in the morning, making your bed (or not), running out the door to catch the T or bus for work.

- Repeating something over and over again creates a habit, hence practice makes permanence.

- Breaking a bad habit or routine requires more practice and work in order to establish a new habit or routine.

2) Having a growth mentality, rather than fixed

- Proactive thinking

- Thinking inside, outside and around the box

- Expecting the unexpected

3) What you focus on, grows (i.e. the Law of Attraction)

- This applies to any idea. If you think you're going to be awful on the next test, you're more likely to do so. Versus if you believe you have studied your best and you'll do your best, it's more likely to happen

4) Have an additive mindset (i.e. Law of Occupied Space)

- Picture the Leonardo DaVinci's Mona Lisa in your head (see the picture for a refresher). Before I move on (and I want you to pause for a moment after reading this sentence), don't picture her with a huge, bushy mustache.

- If you didn't read the whole sentence above, you probably have the Mona Lisa in your mind. But if you read the entire have that hilarious image in your head. No, not hilarious? Just me?

- Maybe you got a chuckle out of it, maybe this exercise is more effective if someone narrated it. But the idea here is that if you have the Mona Lisa with a mustache in your head, you focused on what not to do (i.e. a subtractive mindset), rather than what you're supposed to do. This is the same rule that applies to coaching as well. When I'm coaching swim technique, I have to constantly remind myself to not tell the kids what not to do, because they'll end up doing that instead of the proper (and legal) technique.

- Having an additive mindset helps you establish a proactive mindset

Maybe by definition of the additive/subtractive mindset, I shouldn't have shared my cross country story. However, it does show that you can change your own mindset with practice. I still struggle sometimes with it, which is totally human and normal. We all live and learn, but I hope by sharing this with you, you can learn from some of my own mistakes and grow in your own personal journey, in sport and in life.

Happy Training!

- Anna


If you want to learn more about Dr. Manning, check out his book and website at "The Fearless Mind"


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