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Ok, granted, a rather strange title for a triathlon blog. However, for those of you who have read ‘The Chimp Paradox’ by Professor Steve Peters, you will know exactly what I am talking about. For those of you who haven’t, read and learn people – read and learn.

The hypothesis that Peters (who is a consultant psychiatrist to Sky ProCycling and the England football team, among others) creates is based on the fact that our rudimentary instincts sometimes control our logic (this also parallels Freud’s theory of the id, the ego and the superego). If this all sounds a bit heavy, bear with me…

The ‘chimp’ is that animal inside you which reacts emotionally to situations. The ‘computer’ is your brain which can process the information and apply logic. Peters has created a globally-acclaimed mind management programme which has been widely adopted by a host of sporting greats. It was cited by Chris Hoy as “the mind programme which helped me win my Olympic golds” and Victoria Pendleton claimed “Steve Peters is the most important person in my career”; so to summarise, he comes on good recommendation. 

The reason I am writing this is because we all suffer from chimp-like moments, on a frequent basis, whether in our sport or outside of our sport. When it comes to sport, however, like any other performance-related activity, it really counts how you manage it.

I have a tendency to get insubordinately nervous before races, angsty during a race, disappointed if I don’t do well; this is all chimp-like emotion which should and can be controlled. It’s perfectly normal, of course, to have these emotions, but it is how we handle them that will ultimately make the difference between a ‘champion’ and a ‘finisher’.

On another level, there is sometimes this chimp chatter that goes on when I’m feeling tired. But am I actually feeling tired? There is that age-old question of whether it is just your mind saying you’re tired or whether you really need to listen to your body if you have over-trained and need rest. How do you know? Sometimes, it is very difficult to tell. Listening to your body (but not the chimp) is imperative for anyone training for a triathlon, because you will come across this at some stage or another.

There is a very effective way to establish whether you do need rest or not, and for many, this is something they already implement into their training: heart rate. If your resting heart rate is higher than usual, it indicates that you are tired/stressed/over trained and should be careful about what training you take on. You may notice it while training – an elevated heart rate (and a lower heart rate threshold) will tell you a great deal about how fatigued you are.

The important thing is to try and not let your emotions dictate your race or affect your overall perception of your sport. If you have a bad race, learn from the experience. This is said countless times in triathlon-related articles and many, many non-triathlon related publications, but it is true. It only takes a moment to observe what the pros do – it took Chris McCormack six attempts to become Ironman World Champion, and if you have read his book, you’ll know that yet again, a large part of this comes down to the psychological attitude of a winner.

Many pros have been plagued by bad luck, crashes and injuries before going on to win key international races. It’s all about attitude: a positive outlook, self-confidence, and belief in what you are trying to achieve (and maybe already have achieved). Self-doubt is something which affects us all, but we need to shut that chimp up.

I can’t say I’m an expert on any of this but ultimately, we are all on a massive learning curve, as you never stop learning about the sport, and more importantly, about yourself.

There are endless articles on training for performance; drills to perfect technique, volume and intensity, rest and recovery, nutrition and hydration, gear, kit and technology…

However, this stuff will only get you so far. It’s the mind that gives you the edge, so don't neglect it...