Mental stamina

If you go

What: Mental skills for triathlon seminar

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday (second seminar March 9)

Where: East Boulder Recreation Center, 5660 Sioux Dr. (March event in Longmont)

More info: $20; register for Thursday at

Ironman pro and triathlon coach Craig Howie used to have a problem with pre-race anxiety.

“It was very common for me to lose my lunch right before a race,” Howie said, with a chuckle.

But one of the athletes he trained, Will Murray, turned him on to some mind-training techniques — which Murray learned in the business world — to help him stop losing his lunch.

Howie and Murray will offer two seminars that introduce endurance athletes to some of these techniques in the next month.

The first is Thursday night at East Boulder Recreation Center, 5660 Sioux Dr. This will benefit Boulder Parks and Rec.

The second seminar, on March 9, benefits the Longmont Youth Triathlon Club and Flagstaff Academy Triathlon Club.

The seminars are based on the book they’re co-authoring, “Train Your Mind,” which they’re still writing.

Murray, of Boulder, said the goal of the book is to give people specific methods for dealing with problems all triathletes face — like lacking motivation to train or experiencing anxiety about bike descents.

The pair uses NLP (neurolinguistic programming) to think about training and racing situations differently; Murray has trained in the method and is a certified NLP practitioner.

For Howie, of Longmont, it helps him refocus his brain — which he said athletes do constantly in long events like Ironmans. One technique he frequently uses is called an anchor.

“When you are feeling good, out on a run, hitting that groove, you connect it to a non-related item. For me, when I’m running along and I’m feeling good, I connect it with touching my thumb and my pointer finger together.”

It’s like a song that always puts you in a good mood or makes you feel a certain way, he said. In training or a race, when he’s not feeling great, he touches finger to thumb, using the anchor to reset his mind.

“Since you’ve created that strong association of feeling good, it will trigger you to do that.”

But there are other techniques, and other issues to deal with. Murray said at the seminars, he and Howie will ask participants to write down on a sticky note one thing that would make things go better for them.

“We’re going to put those on the wall and see what themes emerge,” Murray said. “For example, a bunch of people are going to write down that they really fear swimming in open water. We’re going to do something about that.”

Howie said the techniques have been helpful both as an athlete and a coach.

“One of my athletes had a situation where she’d really panic in the swim,” Howie said. “Through some of the things Will taught her, and I helped reinforce, she was recently able to have a fantastic swim in an event and a very big personal record — and no panic attacks at all.”

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