Coach Tip Tuesday: What If?

Posted On:
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
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A question mark drawn in white chalk on a black chalkboard.

Once again, it’s Coach Tip Tuesday!

Building on the last two weeks, when we discussed the importance (and toughness factor) of Peak Phase and then the Taper Phase that follows it, this week I want to talk about what follows those time periods: Race Day.

Very specifically, I want to touch on a specific part of race day: Mindset.

If you have set a big goal, you have probably definitely (I understand the contradiction there, and it’s intentional :) ) asked yourself this two-word question:

“What if?”

Chances are, when you asked this question, it was followed by worst-case or negative scenarios.  Some examples:

  • “What if I have a bad race?”
  • “What if I fail?”
  • “What if something goes wrong?”
  • “What if I don’t complete the race as fast as I would like to?”
  • “What if I get beat by someone I don’t like?”
  • “What if I look silly and like an imposter while I’m racing?”

I could go on and on, but you get the idea here.  As adults, when we ask the question “What if”, it is almost always out of a place of fear.  I hear this very, very often from athletes, and the time period I hear it most is in the days immediately preceding a goal race.

I’m here this week to propose a new version of this question. I want to encourage each and every one of you to ask this question the same way we did when we were children. When we were children, we did ask this question often, but we did so with curiosity and optimism:

  • “What if I was a superhero?”
  • “What if I could fly?”
  • “What if magic was real?”
  • “What if I could be anything I wanted to be?”

When you are in your final days before a goal race, this should be (and is!) a happy and exciting time.  After all, races and events are the reward of all of the hard work, time, money, and energy you put into your training.  Day after day, week after week, you worked intentionally and diligently toward your goal.  Race day is like the cherry and sprinkles on top of the sundae.  It’s a time to celebrate and reap the rewards that come from hard work, intentionality, and dedication.

So when you’re in this time period, I encourage you to cultivate a mindset that embraces this.  As part of that, rather than asking questions stemming from a worst-case scenario or out of place of fear, ask questions such as:

  • “What if I have fun?”
  • “What if I see what I am truly capable of?”
  • “What if I realize I am stronger than I previously thought?”
  • “What if I successfully achieve the goal I set so long ago?”

When you have reached the point where race day is literally within your grasp, you have earned the right to have a fun, strong, and wonderful experience.  It is important to recognize that you are worthy of a good, positive experience.  It is also important to remember that your training has prepared you to overcome any adversity that you may encounter come race day.  As such, you deserve to ask yourself positive questions and to visualize a positive outcome, not head down a path that can spiral into negative thoughts and visualizations.

If you do ask yourself, “What if XYZ “bad” scenario happens?”, perhaps consider answering that question with, “So what?” 

Give it a go.  You might just fly.

“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask "What if I fall?"
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
-Erin Hanson


Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at

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