Finish it!

Finishing a competition sounds simple and pretty basic. You start. You perform. You finish. It amazes me how many athletes “blow it” by letting up or putting on a show. It’s not just undisciplined it’s lazy, sloppy and insulting to others in the competition. But then a gain, maybe that is their point – to put others down and portray some grandiose image of themselves.

How often does it happen that athletes do not maintain intensity and focus to the finish? Not finishing is a sign of mental weakness not mental toughness. Mentally tough athletes stay intense and focused to the finish. Runners let up at the end of races. Players let up before the goal line. Whether it is to celebrate or show-boat or because they are lazy or complacent or overly confident it doesn’t matter – they don’t finish.

So how about you? Do you finish? Do you stay intense to the finish regardless of your time, place or score?

One behavior that demonstrates mental toughness is tenacity and focus on the task at hand – that play, that competition, that moment – right to the end of the play or competition. Not doing so could mean a loss to your rival, a loss for your team instead of victory or someone scoring on you who shouldn’t. It could mean that by letting up you don’t set a personal record in a race, someone beats you who never has before, you don’t keep your shut-out or you just miss setting a record.

That behavior starts in practices. Athletes must practice finishing. Finish every drill the way they are designed. Finish every practice play as if it were the game. Finish every repeat/interval on the track by crossing the finish-start line – every time. Finish even the worst practice session you’ve ever had. When you can finish even on your worst days you are setting the stage to have breakthrough performances on your good days.

You are training yourself mentally and physically to finish. If you practice to let up as you near the end – that is exactly how you will perform in competition. Someone out there is willing to finish it. They are waiting for you to let up – even just that little bit. They are willing to take advantage by staying with the play; playing to the last whistle or racing to the finish line.

So are you a finisher?

For personalized mental game training in sports and business: www.mindset4performance.com

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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 - trailrunningclub.com. 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 Running-Advice.com. 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.
This entry was posted in Excuses not to run, focus, Goal Setting, Mental Game, Mental Game Boot Camp, Mental Toughness, Motivation, Running, Sports Psychology, The Running Life - Philosophy, Youth Athletes, Youth Running. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Finish it!

  1. Ellen B. says:

    Ouch! I agree that finishing strong is important (who doesn’t want to do that?), but this post kind of stings a bit. There can be a whole host of reasons why someone doesn’t finish well, such as what happened to me in my most recent marathon. A desire to hit a specific, well-thought out time and disregarding the weather conditions, despite the weather challenges; strategic error on pacing midway through the race; unforeseen circumstances, etc. In my case I did finish all of my repeats strong, every single one for 18 weeks of training. That wasn’t the issue. And, I’m not being lazy or undisciplined either (I get up at 4am and run on my own, every time, even running on a snow covered track, whatever it takes). So, I think it’s a bit presumptuous to suggest that the only reason one doesn’t finish strong is a lack of mental toughness. And, your intro. paragraph sets the tone for the post. Maybe a more balanced approach to the issue at hand?

    • Dean Hebert says:

      I love your comment. You are right. You are not someone I describe in my post.

      Perhaps to clarify my point – it is to finish strong MENTALLY. Of course there are reasons for PHYSICALLY not being able to do something. But note that in the examples I use and in the videos – these are about inattentiveness, laziness, lack of focus, lack of intensity, or wanting to show off. These are not about a physical inability to finish something. These are mental lapses. Pure and simple.

      I have DNF’d races for reasons you mention. I do not see myself as a quitter or lazy because I had to drop out. I also do not see it as a badge of honor to “finish at all costs”… that could in fact be injurious or plain stupid.

      So the finishing “strong” I am addressing is not about being the fastest (at any point in the race) or about setting a PR or hitting a BQ. It is however about giving your best to the very end whatever that is for that day. And on some days… it isn’t great. But as I tell all my athletes – even then – give me your best bad day possible.

  2. dreamstori says:

    I appreciate this post specifically because I recently completed a Half IronMan. I trained for six months in order to prepare. Three weeks out from my race I landed a job and had to move immediately. I could not take my bike and I did not have a place to swim regularly. The only thing I could continue to train in was running. In spite of being in the best shape of my life, I began to doubt myself because of those three weeks. The day of my race, my father (a four time IronMan) looked at me and told me I was as prepared as I could possibly be physically, it was all up to my mental state to finish the race.

    The race was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. My dad competed as well, and said it was the hardest Half he had ever completed. Fortunately, as I entered the water for my swim I set in my mind that I would finish this race. From that moment on I never wavered in my focus. There was no point of thinking, ‘I can’t do this’. Thinking that way was unacceptable to me because if I allowed myself to think that I would inevitably give up.

    My finishing time was not my goal time, the course threw many… many more high grades at me than anticipated, however I finished well. I never stopped. Not because of my physical ability, I knew I could do it physically. It was my mental focus that got me through.

    I am not a competitive athlete in the sense that I could win a race, or even my age group. So I do not see races as anything other than a competition between my body and my mind.

    • Dean Hebert says:

      Congratulations and well done. The fact is that you competed with yourself to accomplish your goal… that is staying with it to the end. I’m sure there will be many more for you to show what you can do. Keep it up!

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