Dr. Justin Ross Portrait For Coachcast Season 4 Episode 6

Sports Psychology Frameworks for Anxiety and Injury with Dr. Justin Ross

BY TrainingPeaks CoachCast Host Dirk Friel

Dr. Ross talks with Dirk Friel about how to create mental practice in training to be prepared for race or workout anxiety and navigating the three stages of returning from injury.

Many athletes face mental challenges before their big race, a challenging workout or an injury upending their goals. Dr. Justin Ross talks through a few frameworks for coaches to apply in training plans and in the moment.

Dr. Ross is a clinical psychologist in Denver, Colo. specializing in athlete mental health and performance. He helps address issues such as anxiety, depression, disordered eating and insomnia while aiming to develop high-performance sports psychology skills within any field of play.

Dr. Ross authored the Introduction to Sports Psychology for Endurance Coaches course through TrainingPeaks University. Learn the fundamentals of Sports Psychology with specific techniques to keep your athletes motivated, confident, and performing their best.

He also helps athletes manage the psychological impact of injury or transition back into their sport. He’s an athlete and has competed in IRONMAN® 70.3s and qualified for the Boston Marathon nine times with race plans for the Silver Rush and Leadville 100 Mountain Bike races, followed by the Berlin and London marathons back-to-back in the fall.


“…first and foremost, we have to normalize [anxiety] as a deeply human experience, right. You should feel a little bit keyed up before a big race or before a big [training ]session. It means you care, right? That’s the starting point. It means you care. The offset to anxiety again — both sport and life — is not to take anxiety away. I see too many people try to convince themselves, “It doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t really matter how I do.” Bogus! The offset to anxiety is always trust, right? And if you can build trust, what it does is it starts to just even [anxiety] out…”

“It’s so important for all coaches when you’re building a training plan… you’re not only building these opportunities for physiological adaptation but really, what you’re encouraging is you’re testing them in both mind and body, and so the power of reflection after those workouts is as a coach. What did you learn? What are you taking away, and every single time, right? Every workout needs to have five to 10 minutes of mental skills. It needs to have that reflection piece so that when you get to race day, it’s like, ‘Remember we talked about this. Remember that workout you did in June, right? And it was really, really hard, and you didn’t think you could do it. And you showed up.'”

“We have to recognize that the psychological impact of illness or injury is absolutely profound for an athlete of any caliber, from professional to amateur athletes. We put a lot of our time, a lot of our energy and a lot of our identity goes into our sport, and when that gets threatened either through illness or injury, we’re going to have some impact.”

“My first takeaway is always the mind is a highly trainable skill, and we need to think about training our minds in as much similarity as we think about training our bodies, right? Deliberately, on purpose with the specifics of whatever event is top of mind, and we need to do that on a regular basis. Now, it doesn’t need to be cumbersome. A few minutes a day in your training with a little reflection on the backside is gonna do wonders for you consistently over the course of time.”

“First and foremost, if you’re injured or if you’re ill and it’s bothering you, it should be, right? It means you care. It means you’re having a natural human reaction to something you care about being taken away and being threatened moving forward. So, we need to sort of like wipe the slate clean and say, ‘OK, it’s normal for this to happen.’ We have to give ourselves permission for that, and we have to understand this framework of how things typically unfold in that process.

And then the thing is it’s OK to get support through this right, get support with your coaches if you’re a coach and you want to learn more There’s plenty of ways to learn or enhance your coaching practice with your athletes through applying some of these methods in your training. You’re an athlete, and you want to get better. There’s plenty of ways to do that reach out and work with a professional. I see a lot of people once, right, or twice. And we develop an idea here or things to implement, and you’re on your way, and those things can do wonders.”


Dr. Ross online:

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Coachcast Host Dirk Friel
About TrainingPeaks CoachCast Host Dirk Friel

Dirk Friel is the host of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast and Co-Founder of TrainingPeaks. He is a lifelong athlete with a passion for cycling and ski mountaineering and firmly believes in goal setting, dedicated deliberate training and coaching for all. Learn more about his work at TrainingPeaks and follow his adventures on Instagram @dirkfriel.

Visit TrainingPeaks CoachCast Host Dirk Friel's Coach Profile