Endurance sports like distance running and swimming often wear out competitors mentally more as physically. In particular when a race is 1/2 to 2/3 complete, many athletes get a slight panic attack. Appear to think that 'Geez, I'm tired already, and I still have so far to go.' They become discouraged, lose confidence, and in order to push themselves as hard as they can.Here are some mental tricks to keep your long-distance athletes from hitting that mental 'wall.'EXPECT IT TO HAPPENFirst of all, be sure your athletes realize this kind of mental dip is common, and will most likely occur at the 1/2-2/3 point as race. If they realize it's coming and is something they can push through, they won't become discouraged.Be certain to tell your athletes that races normally won or lost in these middle stages, where along with the lead group can be lost due to not enough confidence. Regardless of how tired they think they are, most people can mount a robust finish once it is time to kick, the actual key to many races is that third of the race just before closing stage.BREAK THE RACE INTO INCREMENTSFeeling tired and thinking about running another two miles can be very discouraging. However, thinking about running another quarter mile isn't so disconcerting.So have your athletes break the remaining race distance into smaller increments and focus on each of those increments one during a time. For example, in cross-country purchase for them think, 'OK, I'll just get myself to that timber.' Once there, they focus on, 'Now, just run to that bend in the trail.'
On the track or in the pool, have them think, 'Ok, let's just swim well for this lap.' Then another lap, yet another. As they get near the end of the race, have them focus on the small increments of distance which can be left and compare that to intervals they regularly perform in practice. 'OK, just two laps to go, I do that all time in practice.'MONITOR THE CONTROL PANELTo make mind occupied whilst relaxation and technique, have your athletes imagine they're monitoring their body's control panel-like a big switchboard with each of their body's functions controlled by big dials and gauges. Get them go through most of their body's switches and monitor their functions one at a time, turning up the relaxation and/or tempo as the race progresses. For example, have them monitor their jaw for teeth-clenching, shoulders for scrunching, fists for tightening, etc.If your athletes have difficulty remembering to do this on a constant basis, have them pre-select certain points on the race track at which ought to check their key pad. For example, from a track race, this could be at the start lines for the 400, 1500, 200 and 100m races on each panel.PRACTICEFinally, these techniques should be regularly practiced in workouts and not left only to race day. Mental training is an art form that only become effective with constant practice.