Joanna Zeiger: The Champion Mindset – How to Build Mental Toughness

April 5, 2017
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Joanna Zeiger, PhD, is a professional athlete (racing pro triathlon from 1998-2010), an academic and endurance sports coach. Her new book titled The Champion Mindset: An Athlete’s Guide to Mental Toughness is a must-read for athletes and the topic of this show. Pick a copy of the book on Amazon here. You can find Joanna at Race Ready Coaching.

  • Joanna’s story is an athletic career defined by perseverance and a grit. As a pro triathlete, she’s been an Olympian (Sydney 2000), 70.3 world champion, Ironman Champion, Kona top-5 finisher, and a 7-time Olympic trials qualifier in the marathon, triathlon and swimming.
  • We pick up with the story of Joanna’s injury sustained during the 2009 70.3 World Championships, followed by the painful rehab, recovery and making a comeback to running.
  • Last year she ran Olympic Trials in February, and it was a tough race. She discusses how she got through this mentally and physically, and what it was like to have her last place finish covered in articles and making headlines.
  • Essentially, The Champion Mindset is on how to successfully change behaviors and ways of thinking to achieve optimal success, and with all the countless hours of training Joanna’s done in her lifetime, why she believes the mental edge still rules above all else.
  • Why would one need to have a goal-setting makeover—how can goal setting go wrong?
  • Tough love, being blunt and even being a “jerk” in certain settings when working with athletes.
  • Mention of running streaks and how Joanna is not afraid to say she’s not a fan (nor is Tawnee). We elaborate.
  • The concept of “training insanity.”
    • Reckless and ill-thought-out decisions we make in regards to training, in particular pushing through red flags and doing workouts when we should be resting.
    • Training insanity is something most if not all coaches will appreciate; we can always see it in our athletes yet as an athlete we often have a hard time recognizing when we do this.
    • If we don’t have a coach, how do we know when to stop and call it a day or push through? Because sometimes pushing through can be ok in the right context!
  • On making excuses, and how to stop making excuses.
  • What does the research say about self-handicapping, i.e. making excuses?
  • How do excuses tie in with performance outcomes and how to let go of making excuses?
  • At the end of the day you write that self-handicapping is just our attempt to protect the ego.
  • How can we be less egocentric yet still believe in ourselves and have the self-confidence to get out there, get the work done and to achieve greatness?
  • What does the confident mindset entail?
  • Signs that you have your ego in check vs. signs that you need to work on your ego and not let your worries over racing and performance get out of hand.
  • Joanna is one of the few Type A endurance athletes who says she is not a perfectionist. Specific ways in which she’s clearly not focused on perfection in the way she lives and executes her life.
    • A day in the life of Joanna, and how she prioritizes.
    • Many perfectionists need to do a better job at prioritizing and not put everything as #1 in life.
    • Can perfectionism ever be healthy for us? When to channel you perfectionism.
  • Her chapter on finding meaning. It seems a big theme in this section is embracing the new—new opportunities, new challenges, trying new things—and all the while practicing gratitude and finding the joy in. For example, she was not a fan of running at first! How did she learn to turn something you didn’t like at the time, i.e. running, into something you thrive at and love doing?
  • Why doing “new stuff” is great for us and can enhance our sport.
  • In all the research she put into the book, was there anything that she personally found particularly helpful and refreshing on what it means to have a champion mindset?
  • Get the book here!

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