Sport psychology task – How many words?

I was asked a question the other day by one of my Sport and Exercise Science students… “How many words describe triathlon?”

This one a great question, and a somewhat mind journey of an answer too. It is in fact an exercise i did with a sport psychologist many years ago. So, here is my take on it with triathlons. Yet having thought about all the words in my list below, the final one stuck in my head.

Triathlon… Swimming, cycling, running, competing, training, eating, fasting, avoiding sugar, avoiding fat, weighing scales, bike, carbon frame, deep section wheels, disc wheel, aero, helmets, tri suit, chamois, technique, body roll, kick board, 50 m sprints, hills, intervals, drills, goggles, wetsuit, open water swimming, Long runs, protein, beetroot juice, creatine, vitamin D, triathlon cycling shoes, running shoes, elastic laces, mid foot strike, strength and conditioning, Core stability, sweating, breathing, bilateral breathing, the catch, pull bouy, shaved legs, cycling tan, brick sessions, early mornings, hydration, 30 minute window, saddle sores, electrolytes, watt bike, sacrifice, pain, crying, winter, blisters, muck off, sunglasses, race belt, sprint, suncream, chamois cream, baby oil, paddle, flippers, grit, toughness, injury, motivation, Cold baths, flexibility sessions, top 10, winning, 5th place.

5th place. It was only when I really thought about it that I recalled having achieved a lot of 5th places. In fact my last four races have been 5th places and that is something I need to crack. However I don’t think I would’ve focused on this as much if I hadn’t done the little exercise above. Now i will be aiming for 4th.

So I encourage you to make your own list and see which things come up for you. 

One last thought I will give you to go away with touches on one of the words above, and that is motivation. The one thing that always comes into my head when thinking about motivation to go out on my bike or complete the last two intervals in the pool is this; 

“You don’t get what you wish for, you get what you work for”


Have you got GRIT? Test yourself here.

Having been involved in sports for pretty much most of my life, I have endured times of wanting to quit as well as times of wanting to never give up. These moments come across all individuals at unpredictable times, and it’s most likely that when it does come about it is the worst time possible.

A lot of athletes are often measured on their individual performances in sport. This has always been the way since the very start of sports. The winners are the ones that people remember and the losers… well, nobody remembers them. There are many ways to measure an athlete, in psychology we have performance profiling, in sports analysis we have statistics, and in sports science we have laboratory physiological tests, and if you are lucky enough you will have all three of these areas to measure you and how do you perform. However, there is one aspect that I would like to draw to your attention having recently watched a video that discusses the nature of how resilience should also be considered as a measure of an individuals drive to succeed. This is something that Angela Lee Duckworth explains as being ‘grit’.

Over her years of extensive research Angela Lee Duckworth was able to devise a scale of which grit can be measured. She used the scale in a number of capacities and established that it was a better predictor of success than intelligence. The main contexts that the grit scale was used was mainly academic or military, yet I am interested in how this would differ with a variety of athletes. There are always those days where you may look out of the window and see the rain sheeting down onto the road outside, and we let this factor into our train of thought and some of us may decide against training on that particular day. I believe that this grit scale may help coaches and athletes themselves to decipher how motivated and determined they are to succeed when times are hard.

For me the definition of grit is as follows: ‘Being able to endure difficult moments to achieve a long term target’

We must think back and remember of times when we have achieved such targets and consider how long it took. From that length of time, how many days were good days, and how many days were bad. If we do have a day where everything looks like it is against us we must think of the days where everything was in our favour. If your long term target takes you 365 days I am guessing that roughly only 50 of those days maybe bad ones. To go one step further 50 days could be reduced to 20 days depending on your ‘grittiness’.

So I urge you to have a go and see how gritty you really are by taking the 12 item grit scale as designed by Angela Lee Duckworth by clicking here. How likely are you to tell the rain and the cold to shove it? To put aside your emotions and fill your body with lactic acid? To forget about that hard day at work and hit the tarmac? To put your injury behind you and think of everything you can still achieve? The answers to these questions are what will make us different to one another, and I believe that grit is one of the newest and most influential measurements of how we can succeed.

Please take the time to watch Angela Lee Duckworth’s presentation at one of the TED conferences.