Last week we examined the importance motivation plays in a successful exercise or training program and identified ways to boost or regain motivation as needed. While being motivated is important, without having the confidence to execute your plan, you run the risk of falling short of your goals.
According to Jim Taylor Ph.D. and Terri Schneider, confidence is the most important contributor to success. They define confidence as how strongly you believe you can perform your best and achieve your goals. You have to believe you can be successful, to be successful. Having confidence in their ability to succeed is one characteristic of all champions.
So how do you gain confidence? According to Taylor and Schneider preparation is the foundation of confidence. If you have put in the hours at the gym, pool, running, etc. to perform your best, you will have confidence in your abilities to reach your goals. Preparation offers you the opportunity to establish trust in your capabilities.
Let me give an example. When I signed up for my first Ironman 70.3 event, I was still not a very good swimmer. I worked on my swimming tirelessly until I could easily swim 1.2 miles in both the pool and open water in well under the 70 minutes allotted. I was still nervous at the start of the swim but I had the confidence that I could finish the swim strong and well ahead of the allotted time.
While training is one step in building confidence, being able to handle adversity is yet another. Regardless of what exercise or endurance events you do, the best way to handle adversity is to expose yourself to this same adversity in training. If you run marathons, practice running in the rain, if you are a triathlete, practice swimming in cold, choppy water. Having experienced these adverse conditions in training will build your confidence on race day.
Building confidence takes work and patience but staying confident takes even more discipline and practice regardless of what you do. Confidence is a skill that you develop through practice and experience. One of the most productive confidence building skills you can adopt is positive self-talk. What you think and say to yourself will have a direct output on how you perform. Seemingly harmless comments like, “I can’t do this,” or “I can’t run that far” program your mind and body for failure.
Over the course of a week monitor your self-talk and observe how much negativity you have. One successful triathlete did this for one week and observed 97 instances of negative self-talk and only four positive instances! It takes 12 positive comments or experiences to erase a negative comment so it’s crucial to develop healthy self-talk habits immediately.
Being positive will bolster your confidence during challenging times. For example when running a race replace “my legs hurt and I can’t go on” with “this really hurts, but pain is temporary, accomplishment is forever.” The step of tipping the scales towards the positive in ALL situations is crucial. This takes practice and self-awareness but with practice you can turn your mind into a powerful asset that will breed confidence fueled by your motivation.
Here is another resource with more tactics and ideas