Is Your Brain Sabotaging Your Goals?


Posted by Coach Chris Palmquist


A complete athlete combines well-earned fitness with appropriate fueling/hydration and strong mental skills. If any of these components are weak, the athlete will not achieve his/her goals or meet their true potential. Any serious athlete needs to respect the impact that their brain has on every training session, race and season. Here are some ways that your brain can sabotage your goals.


Opposite Goals and Signals

Your goal is to get faster, train efficiently, test your limits and thrive in tough conditions. Your brain’s goal is to prevent you from hurting yourself, dehydrating, becoming hypoglycemic, overheating, overtraining and quite honestly, dying. If your brain thinks you are close to any of these conditions, it will send signals of fatigue that will encourage you to slow down, stop and rest.

You need to send signals back up the spinal cord that everything is OK. Stay as cool as possible. Do not let yourself get dehydrated. Keep up with adequate fueling and electrolytes. Train appropriately for your goals so that your brain becomes accustomed to the effort level required to finish the race at goal pace. Get adequate sleep and eat quality food all day, every day. Keep your body as healthy as you can and your brain will accept the challenges of training/racing with fewer protests.


Noisy Mind Syndrome

Is your mind running at hyper-speed before, during and after every training session and race? If so, it is not helping you. It might be talking you into postponing training because you are too tired, sleepy, busy, hungry, thirsty, full, etc. It might be saying “Slow down! This isn’t good for you!” It could be overanalyzing with harmful, judgmental comments ranging from “You are weak and out of shape” to “You are super awesome and should run this first mile faster than planned.”  Or how about the ever-popular, “You should sleep in this morning instead of swimming/running/biking.”

The best athletes are able to quiet that brain noise. It might be helpful to imagine this brain “noise” as an imaginary character, sitting on your shoulder. I imagine a little troll that talks too much and represents my brain. When he is chatty, I visualize asking him to be quiet or leave my shoulder. Silly, I know. But it works for me and therefore I share. Hush your brain and do the training session, race according to the plan, and stop trying to judge your effort during your race. Stop the over-thinking! Turn off the noise. 



Your life as athlete worries your brain – even though your brain responds with happy endorphin production after you safely finish that hard bike or fast race. Realize its role in your failures and successes and work on your mental skills to ensure that your hard-earned fitness gains show up on race day.

~ Coach Chris Palmquist

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