Mental strategy: Respect the basics


“It’s not for lack of trying! “, ” That pisses me off!! “, ” I don’t understand, I did everything as planned.” So many reactions that make us forget what we were originally looking for: pleasure. Yet the strategies of mental preparation for physical performance are not lacking. While the latter abound and focus attention, we too often forget the basis. Reminders.


For a long time now, mental preparation has been used to better prepare athletes for a major event – or at least perceived as such. “Perceived “… Indeed, some of us do not feel the need to change the way they apprehend a race. Others, on the other hand, seek to know everything about mental imagery, relaxation, goal setting… Techniques that have been proven to regulate the emotional state, but whose effectiveness is not only dependent on a fine copy and paste.

Indeed, even if the techniques are plural and their foundations rationalized, personal experience reminds us that for each one, some methods apply better than others, and apply sometimes. In other words, we are not all equal in the face of mental imagery… On this basis, the idea of this paper is to identify the common points from which their effectiveness derives. These points all relate to the optimization of your mental resources.



1. First, the capacity to sustain a mental effort is a… capacity. Thus, it is not conceivable to endure a mental load without finally suffering from fatigue. Consequence: whatever your mental preparation technique, if its implementation is persistent then it will surreptitiously consume your resources and eventually lead to a state of significant mental fatigue (see “How mental fatigue keeps you from running“). Ultimately, because of memory reminders, postural checks, mental projections, focused attention… you will feel less available and alert before you even start running. A limit of bad omen for an event that has not yet begun…

2. Second, the qualitative component of the mental approach echoes the “what?” that is, the technique(s) you choose to use. Here, remember that even among top athletes, there is no miracle mental prepa recipe: one athlete will benefit from using a reactivation strategy (e.g. boost himself) while another will benefit from a higher temperance before the event. However, there is a redundancy among experts: their ability to quickly switch from an “out” mode to an “in” mode. A fraction of a second is enough for them to switch to the task, sometimes giving the impression that they weren’t elsewhere the moment before. No transition! How is that possible? Because they have learned to identify the elements to focus on before/during the event. No useless research in memory, no sterile questioning, right to the point!

From there, the implementation of individualized mental routines becomes meaningful. Indeed, a background of operational strategies would make it possible to limit research activity, preserve the “capacity of mental effort” and thus facilitate the implementation of any technique. Conversely, venturing into implementing a new self-management technique on D-day is not a bright idea…



3. These first two points may seem obvious. A third is equally so, but remains a little adopted reflexion whatever the level of practice: the timing of the mental preparation (i.e., when is the strategy implemented?). An often empirical timing that, unfortunately, can lead to unintended effects. Example: to seek too long to control everything, the technique used becomes anxiogenic and no longer ergogenic. The athlete then interferes with feelings of anger or isolation when his only wish was to “do things too well”. By acting excessively, he introduces a vicious cycle of effort-fatigue-inefficacy, which takes him away from the soothing sensations sought.

Let go is a necessary step here! This, to preserve your resources and be able to effectively alternate between moments of “emptiness” and those of focus. And here, it is not a question of thinking vaguely about the event or of making a final check of the equipment… No, it is a question of cutting you off completely, getting out of context, escaping, finding a “weak time” without concern, without guilt. Friends, memories and contemplation of the environment allow us to open the blinkers and act as a valve for a more effective return to the more serious elements of the competition. And to find out when to switch from “out” to “in” mode, just ask yourself the question: “when does the situation become serious enough to deserve me to get into it, without it needlessly exhausting me?”.

4. A final point to consider in the medium term refers to knowing yourself to optimize your preparation. Indeed, if a first step is the technical implementation (descending logic: “I know so I do”), quickly, a step back on the effects generated by the intervention will have to be adopted (ascending logic: “I did so I learn”). The objective is the appropriation of the technique used through an attentive ear to give to a simple marker, often inhibited and even counter-intuitive when the pressure rises: the feeling of quietude.

Managing oneself in a competitive situation is no easy task. Disturbances are numerous and the re-articulation of priorities conditions a part of well-being. Some may fear to rearrange their routine under the discourse of speakers who want to reassure themselves. Some others are astonished to see themselves overtaken by competitors less well organized in the pre-race. What if these “detached” runners were, in fact, more strategic? In short, to learn how to manage yourself better before a race, the questions to wonder remain simple: What to do? When? Until when? And… for what purpose? Pleasure!!



With your training application GUTAÏ, you don’t have a psychologist at your fingertips but you have crucial information to limit your feeling of tension. A first concrete example corresponds to the nutritional recommendations: according to your racing format, GUTAÏ provides you with dosages (gels, drinks, caffeine…) associated with a specific timing. You know what to take and when. So your role is limited to preparing your stocks well rather than anticipating catches.

In terms of pace, it’s the same. Athletes often wonder about how to manage the effort to adopt in a race depending on their feeling, the course or the weather. Today GUTAÏ is able to give you a bike and running pace according to your event but especially according to your critical intensities. And this point is important, because your critical intensities are obtained from paces that you have already been able to produce in the past. Your race speeds are therefore not extrapolated from theoretical data, they are concrete, and that is crucial when you get to the start line: knowing that the speeds are ambitious, but that they are achievable!