Self-efficacy refers to an individual's belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments (Bandura, 1977, 1986, 1997). In simpler terms, it's a persons belief in their ability to succeed in certain situations, in regards to completing a specific task or in regards to behavioral change. In my case, for the purpose of this blog post, it refers to my confidence in my ability to achieve my athletic goals.
I know without a doubt that my self-efficacy as a triathlete (and overall enjoyment of the sport) has tremendously improved this year, and upon further reflection, I believe this has occurred for a few different reasons:
(1) I have a successful experience to pull confidence from.
Having one ironman under my belt without a doubt provides a confidence boost that I am fully capable of succeeding come race day as long as I arrive to the starting line happy, healthy and mentally prepared. Also, having "survived" the training last year while under much more life stress overall, I have a solid idea of what to expect training-wise and how to best handle it (side note: a personal goal of mine this time around was to do less "surviving" and more "thriving" in regards to the training, which I do think has been the case!)
(2) I've bought into "the plan."
I've been working with my coach for about 2.5 years now (time flies when you're having fun!) In that time, I've grown familiar with both his training methodologies and am fully confident in his guidance and long term perspective in regards to my desired goals. While I may not always understand how the little "pieces" fit together in the short term, I am finding that I now rarely stress over the details of my training, which in turn frees up my energy to: (A) taking care of the other life details that keep me happy and healthy and (B) enjoy the process, aka have fun doing what I love. In summary:
Trusting your coach --> trusting in the process --> greater self-efficacy in successful performance outcomes! #winning
(3) I am thinking more like a triathlete.
Despite the fact that I am coming up on my 10-year triathlon anniversary (!!!) I have traditionally considered myself more of a "runner that happens to also enjoy cycling and swimming," rather than a multi-sport "triathlete." Allow me to explain: running has always been an area of greater confidence in regards to my engagement in triathlons and, in a lot of ways, a crutch. It has been the discipline in which I've enjoyed the most and thus invested the most time and energy into improving. However, in the time I was injured and unable to run earlier this year, my focus was forced away from running and on to improving my cycling and swimming fitness. Having running "out of the picture," even if just for short while, had a positive impact on my self-efficacy as a cyclist and swimmer and in turn, my overall self-efficacy as a triathlete (yay!)
Goal setting with endurance events can be a tricky practice with final time outcomes often being effected by the terrain of the race course, accuracy of measurements (i.e. swim) and weather conditions. I'm also not particularly the best when it comes to setting time-based goals, which is likely why a few of my distance-time goals have sat untouched for a number of years now. While still setting some "outcome-based" goals, I'm learning to adopt the practice of setting more "process-based" goals. I know where I want to go, no what needs to happen to get there? By breaking my major, more distal (long-term) goal into smaller, more proximal (short-term) goals, I create stepping stones along the way that function to keep motivation high and build self-efficacy.
When I do aim to set an outcome goal for a particular race, I try to set multi-tier goals, i.e. an A goal (best possible outcome), B goal (most likely outcome) and C goal (typically low-expectation, stress free). That being said, I have not nailed down any particular time goals but here are a few "process" goals I've identified for this weekend's Patriot's Half :
When it comes to these longer races, I've learned to respect the distance and expect the unexpected. Thus I am aiming to control that which I can control, roll with the challenges, push myself but most importantly HAVE FUN! In doing these things, I'm more than confident that the rest will take care of itself! Now I just need to rest/fuel up, have confidence in what lies ahead and keep a smile on my face!
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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