As if there were any doubts previously, this summer Mo Farah solidified himself as the primer 5k/10k runner in the world with his double victories in Rio, which followed victories in the same events at the London Olympic Games. Much writing has been done about his training that takes place in 3 continents over more than half the year and how dedicated he has been over the past decade in dedication to his craft. However, very little has been discussed about his ability to be possibly the most mentally tough athlete in the world.
I believe that there are few athletes in on the planet that have the mental toughness and confidence that Farah possesses. He focuses on the process rather than the outcome, he believes in the training that he has done, and most importantly he knows that his confidence acts as a weapon that can take down anyone around him. As many coaches search for the training that Farah has done as a way to make their athletes faster, I would argue that the lessons he teaches in confidence could be of greater value to young and experienced runners. Here is what he teaches:
Don’t Focus On Outcome
Outcomes of performances are not given, then are earned. And in that space of earning a certain time comes a process that must takes place. If you are trying to run a certain time or obtain a certain place, you need to achieve certain splits, or come specific parts of the race specific places. In other words, there is a process that must take place. The outcome will be a result of the things that you have achieved in the process along the way.
Furthermore, sitting on the line and worrying about the other people in the race should not affect your outcome. They are not people in the race to hinder your performance. They are there to bring the best performance out of you. In the case of Mo Farah, during his early days of competing, he said that going out and focusing on his opponent was ‘like picking up glass,’ and that he was ‘focused on the outcome before the race even began (1).’ This not only negatively affected his performance, but allowed the race to already have an outcome before a single step had even been ran.
So don’t worry about the outcome, don’t worry about who is in the race, focus on the process and your effort. That’s a great place to start.
Trust Your Training
It is very hard to do anything without a trust or a belief in something. In the case of athletics and business much of that trust stems from a belief in your team and yourself. And That belief is not just based on a fallacy that you think you can succeed in certain situations. It is rooted in the fact that you have prepared for this moment over and over again in training. Just like we discussed yesterday, this is not easy, as it takes courage sometimes to trust in yourself and do what is best for you. However when you make that decision – you can become pretty hard to beat.
After Farah began to believe in himself, and his confidence began to rise, when competitors would begin to make moves during races, he would not panic or focus on them – because he believed in his training. “I feel positive; I know I’ve trained well (1).” And not only is that trust in himself invaluable, also is his ability to communicate positively with himself. He is not beating himself up, he is not downgrading his performance. His is trusting and believing in the work he has done. That is a valuable tool to have.
Know Your Confidence Is a Weapon
Now that we have established Farah as someone who focuses on the process rather than the outcome, and is confident and trusts on the work that he has put in, let’s examine how he uses those tools – weapons. Just as he works in the weight room, the track, and the roads while in training, and being able to call upon those things during a race, so equally important is his ability to use his confidence to win races. Farah claims that this confidence “allows (him) to dictate the race…you are in control (1) ,” compared to times that we spoke about earlier, in which he would give up control of the race before it even started by examining who was in the competition and thinking that they had the race already won.
Confidence is just as powerful weapon as a good kick, or the ability to maintain a pace for a long duration. What matters is not just thinking that you are confident, but basing it off of the work that you have done while focusing on the process right in front of you. When confidence is based off of the process and facts, then it becomes the weapon that you need in order to take down the competition.
As I hopefully have been able to lay out in this piece, it is very clear hat Mo Farah is not just the World’s best distance runner, but one of the most confident and mentally strong athletes on the planet. And the skills that he teaches should not just be used by you, but passed on and implemented by our athletes as soon as you can. Running as fast as Mo maybe a challenging goal, however becoming as mentally strong is something that all of us can do, it all comes down to effort.
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(1) Kessel, Anna. “Mo Farah: Confidence feels like a weapon. You’re in control.” The Guardian. 2012. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2012/jul/26/mo-farah-london-2012-olympics