The Psychology of Self-Awareness for Peak Performance

In the world of triathlon, it’s a pretty big time of year, 70.3 Worlds have just passed, Ironman World Championship is next weekend and the Xterra World Championship is just three weeks away. When the big one is approaching, most of the work is done but there are definitely some key workouts left to do for some final fine tuning. A little time is left to get every last ounce out of yourself for race day. And how to do this right for YOU is such an art! An art that some athletes craft through much trial and error. Or perhaps an art learned through an accelerated learning curve due to a higher internal monitoring – physical, psychological, social, tactical, technical, emotional; a higher all around self-awareness.

In my work as a mental performance consultant a big part of my philosophy is helping guide an athlete to higher levels of self-awareness for all the factors that help them perform at their best in order to do so more consistently. Some athletes have developed and use their self-awareness to their advantage better than others. Here are a few key reasons, in my personal opinion, as to why high self-awareness connects so closely to peak performance:

1. Progress is monitored more against previous self than others. This seems like a no brainer but so many athletes in my observations get stuck on comparing themselves to others in their training group, with their closest competitors, or with the champions in their sport. While there are many positives to learning from others and striving to emulate the best in your sport, greater emphasis on what is needed to reach YOUR peak potential will be more productive for day-to-day training. This means using your strengths and tackling your weaknesses head on and learning what helps you improve the most, not copying someone else’s success formula. It also means listening to your coach, listening to yourself, going hard when its time to go hard, and truly resting when it is time to recover.

2. High trust in coach and high belief in training program. For some reason, highly self-aware athletes seem to communicate better with their coaches and have a greater trust in their training. (again only my personal opinion here!). While of course there is some solid physiological science behind a great training program and coach, an athlete’s relationship with that coach, and belief in them can be equally, if not even more important, to building that self-awareness as a coach-athlete team as to what works best for reaching peak performances. The great coach-athlete relationships that I have seen involve a constant dialogue between coach,(e.g “how did that feel?”) and athlete (e.g. “I think maybe we should try X or change Y because…what do you think?”). When an athlete has the freedom to have such an open relationship with a coach, self-awareness as to what works best can be achieved much sooner!

3. High awareness of personal signs of fatigue = smart recovery. As related to the above two points, highly self-aware athletes know what they can handle, recognize the first signs of dangerous fatigue levels, and get better and better at taking proper recovery as soon as needed, even when unplanned. Secondly, such athletes don’t waste much energy comparing themselves to what others are doing. They listen to their own bodies, and stay confident in their “path to the podium” 🙂

4. Respect for the influence of all other “life factors”. With awareness of all the life factors that can impact training and competition for good or for bad, highly self-aware athletes are quicker and more confident to adjust accordingly when needed. When work, family, school, or any other life stressors (positive or negative) become more demanding, smart or aware athletes scale back training or modify as needed to stay healthy and keep moving forward as much as possible.

5. Know how to keep thyself motivated! Finally highly self-aware athletes are truly in tune with what motivates them. They can clearly answer why they are pursuing their sport? Why they love it? What kind of changes they make when their motivation starts to slump? How they keep things fresh, creative and fun while also consistently working hard towards their goals? They understand the purpose of each training session and how it fits in to the long-term plan, with a perspective on how it all fits together with the rest of LIFE!

Okay, after falling off the blog wagon for a while, that’s my two cents on something other than a race report in a while. Hope you enjoyed if you made it this far!

4 thoughts on “The Psychology of Self-Awareness for Peak Performance

  1. Great stuff Danelle, You really are so tuned in to what makes us tick best as athletes!
    I’M over in Manchester back at the World Track Masters again. Trusting my training / rest, hoping I’m going to kick ass and get the best out of myself!

  2. Hi Danelle, really enjoyed reading your latest post. Everything you said is so true. I’m very fortunate that my relationship with my coach Suzanne and her approach to my training is centered on this. All the best at the Xterra championship!

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