This article needs to start with "life happens" no matter how well we train, plan and focus, something can always go wrong. No one likes setbacks but we will come across them and so need to be equipped to deal with them.
We need to deal with these setbacks as we would in life... Step back and evaluate; what happened? Why? What can we do? Most importantly, was the set back within our realm of control?
What we need to do firstly is realise quickly that a set back is not permanent and we will move forward... Dwelling on it will not help but make it worse than it needs to be. Setbacks are a big cause of stress in sport and this really inhibits performance so building coping strategies will enable you to perform and live a little healthier.
Set Back – Evaluate - Was it in our control? – How can we prevent in the future? – Move forward.
A sports psychologist will get you to set triggers (actions or thoughts to relate to positive outcomes) to help you build a positive response to a set back, for example:
You have a great race start which leads into a great race, you look back to how you felt at the race start, how you felt before and during, then look at how your training was leading into the race. Once you have evaluated to positive process you then link it to something like a note written on your top tube like "feeling fast" "go go!" or something personal to you or you can use self talk which literally means talking positively to yourself on the start line!
A few people will look at this and think 'oh my what a load of rubbish?' Well it's not - we all do things already that are psychology based without even knowing it. Do you have a pair of lucky race socks or jersey and you feel better when you wear them? This is no different.
A famous example is Jonny Wilkinson's trigger before he takes a kick. Watch a video clip and see what he does with his hands before each kick, this trigger reminds him of making the perfect kick, so reinforces a positive action.
This method is a preventative way of dealing with setbacks so keeping your mind in a positive place.
If we look at a negative event, like getting a cold the week before a race, and our training pre event suffers, we turn up at the race feeling back to normal but our race goes flat, we cannot get the power to our legs and heart rate will not elevate! Therefore we end up finishing down the field compared to normal. You need to quickly realise that this is a short term setback which will pass once you have rested properly. Do not dwell on it but move forwards.
Take a moment to read through E3 athlete, Steve Day's blog on how he dealt with set backs in his race season.