Competition is the Test not the Training

Athletes train for days, weeks and months in preparation for key competitions. Athletes set goals months or seasons and years in advance. The training is arduous. Sometimes it’s even tedious. Some of us live for the training and have little competitive spirit to push every limit on competition day. This post is not for you. Others however live for the day to put it on the line.

Ultimately we can be supremely in shape. We can be strong, fit and “psyched” for the big competition. Let me pose to everyone however that regardless of:

  • your training miles and paces
  • regardless of your finely tuned and professionally prepared workout schedule that you followed to the letter
  • regardless of time trial tests that lay the foundation
  • regardless of being the fittest you’ve ever been on the big day…

The competition is the test. And like a test in a classroom, regardless of the amount of studying and how much you know; what counts is what happens on test day. 

Before anyone thinks that I am advocating that the race results are all that counts – au contraire. Every athlete should fully enjoy the process – fully and completely. I am only addressing the issue of performance.

It is not always the fittest fastest strongest athlete who wins on that big day. It is not always who did all the right workouts. If that were the case, everyone who followed a training program could mail in their results and the race director would assign us places and times based on our training logs. We would never have to show up for the competition.

Race day is test day and graduation day all in one. It is time to put it on the line. Your focus has to be on taking all your physical and mental powers and putting them together on this day.

If you are one who does not perform up to expectations on race (test) day then it is time to re-evaluate what you are doing in preparation. When lesser prepared athletes win out, it is because they can put it together on race day whereas the better conditioned athlete let’s things devaluate their potential.

Sometimes the reason is physical (injured, aches, pains, cramps) often it is training related (poor taper, wrong workouts) and more often it is the result of a lack of mental preparation (focus, stress, anxiety, peer pressure).

Think of it this way, your physical preparation yields the total potential of how you CAN perform (it is 100%). Your mental preparation is what ALLOWS you to perform your best. The best analogy is you may have prepared your body to be a Ferrari but you’re driving with the brake on (lack of mental preparation). You cannot perform anywhere near 100% of your potential without mental preparation for race day. You will be the “A” student getting a “C” because you couldn’t perform on test day.

So, what are you doing to prepare for your test?

But here’s the great news. There is always another test. It is not do-or-die. If you don’t like the results of one test, you can go take another! So, here’s to laying it on the line and good test taking.


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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3 Responses to Competition is the Test not the Training

  1. gbsmith4 says:

    Absolutely superb, Dean. Dead on!

  2. Aric Keith says:

    I think it’s also worth noting that test taking, like competition (it’s analog in your metaphor) is a skill. It can take some people some time and experience to know how to deliver on game day.

  3. Dean Hebert says:

    I completely agree. And as a skill, doing “mock” or “dress rehearsals” to build the test taking skill are good to create confidence on test day.

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