05135 Avoiding Mental Sabotage Part 3 How To Fuel Your Confidence 700x394

Avoiding Mental Sabotage Part 3: How to Fuel Your Confidence

In our continuing series on race-day mental skills, we discuss the importance of proactive confidence, which you can build by asking yourself these six pre-race questions.

What is self-confidence? Self-confidence is how strongly you believe in your ability to execute any skill or task on the course. Race-day confidence is crucial to every athlete’s success. Without a high level of confidence, you simply cannot perform at your best —or more importantly, you cannot perform with any level of consistency.

Confidence helps with your overall mental game and race-day strategy, helping you stay calm and composed. Confidence allows you to believe in yourself and perform. Confidence helps you trust in your training, so your overall mental game will be on point when and if the unexpected occurs during your race.

Confidence develops over many years as you practice and compete. It comes from past performances, success, training and careful preparation.

How Do Athletes Gain Confidence?

Athletes get confidence from different areas of their event. Here are a few examples of the common sources of athlete confidence:

  • Past success in races
  • A strong work ethic in training
  • Immediate performance feedback
  • Positive comments from others
  • Supportive people in your life
  • Quality training
  • Quality coaching
  • Belief in your own physical talents
  • Strong technique
  • Confidence in your conditioning
  • Your equipment
  • Your warm-up routine

The SELF in Self-Confidence

The number one way to take control of your own confidence is to be proactive (not reactive) before a race. Proactive confidence means fueling your belief by focusing on your strengths and talents. You want confidence to come from your belief, based on your experience and abilities, not from external sources such as coaches, other competitors or course conditions.

Ask yourself these questions to start building your pre-race confidence:

  1. What are your strengths?
  2. What have you accomplished?
  3. What can you say about your training routine?
  4. What can you say about your commitment or work ethic?
  5. What can you say about your mental toughness?
  6. What can you say about your fitness?

Use the answers to these questions to help you fuel your confidence just like you fuel your body before a race. Remind yourself of your talents, abilities and strengths instead of holding onto reasons to not perform well in the race.

Controlling Doubt and Other Confidence Killers

Besides using the benefit of proactive confidence, you’ll want to understand the top confidence killers and how they can affect you. Your biggest confidence killer is your own self-doubt. Doubt is the exact opposite of confidence. If you question or doubt your ability, you hurt confidence. So you want to be aware when you begin to doubt your ability. You’ll also want to know the other top confidence killers that might suppress your performance, including:

  1. Making comparisons to competitors who you think are better
  2. Being overly critical of your performance
  3. Negative imagery prior to events
  4. Worrying about what others think about your race
  5. Setting unrealistic goals
  6. Not committing a proper race plan
  7. Not preparing properly- physically, mentally, equipment and nutrition
  8. Not being in the moment

Recognize any of these confidence killers that you may be doing in your training or racing. Address each of them, one at a time, so you can keep a high level of confidence leading into any event.


At any time, you are either thinking positively about your performance or focusing on doubts that undermine your confidence. We suggest that you focus on the thoughts and feelings about your upcoming performance by using the idea of becoming more proactive with your confidence. Don’t wait until your performance feels good or you are hitting certain numbers, instead take the time to be proactive about fueling your confidence.

No one can help you feel confident but yourself—don’t rely on others, or compare yourself to others and use them as your barometer for success. Proactive confidence comes from positive self-talk, controlling the images in your mind, moving on from your mistakes, and quickly cutting off doubts, expectations and any other thoughts that may destroy your confidence going into your next event.

Stay on top of your game with our continuing series on the “6 Ways Athletes Sabotage Their Race Day Success.” Learn valuable mental skills, including how to successfully manage your race day expectations. Stay tuned for part four, where we will show you how not to be so results-driven with your training and racing.

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About Patrick J. Cohn, Ph.D. and Andre Bekker 

Dr. Patrick Cohn is a master mental game coach with Peak Performance Sports in Orlando, FL.
Andre Bekker (pictured here) is a 12-time Age Group winner in Ironman and 70.3 events / former professional bike rider, and owner of 5th Dimension Coaching.

Download their free audio program, “Mental Toughness Skills in Racing for Triathletes”.