Overcoming injury with Michael Raelert

By Su

Triathlete Michael Raelert trained at Thanyapura earlier this year in preparation for the year ahead. The two-time Ironman world champion was focused on one thing and that is the Dubai Triathlon, where he will come face to face Javi Gomez – who, in his words is “the best athlete in the world”. 

Video time stamps

Michael Raelert answered some tough questions at the end of a big training camp here at Thanyapura in January 2015.

0:35 – Do you think someone will go sub 4:30 soon?

1:08 – Are you as good as the Michael Raelert when he went 3:34 at the 70.3 World Champs 2009?

2:30 – Race strategy, do you do anything other than going 100% from start to finish like in Bahrain? Or do you use some tactics?

4:09 – In 2015, what are your A races?

5:45 – Which athlete would give you the most pleasure in beating?

7:00 – How much of racing is mental to you?

8:00 – How do you mentally deal with overcoming injury or failure?

9:05 – How do you prepare the night before a big race?

Key Points

The starting gun goes off and triathlete Michael Raelert sprints ahead. He doesn’t have a routine or use tactics, he just goes. For Michael Raelert, tactics slow him down so he just focuses on the race ahead.

The two-time 70.3 Ironman World Champion trained at Thanyapura earlier this year, in preparation for the Dubai Triathlon, after just winning the inaugural Challenge Bahrain triathlon.

He said: “I had two or three years where I started to use tactics and [I spent] a little bit of looking around before the race but I was never good at it. I try to be as fast as possible for as long as possible and at the end it worked for me. The gun goes off and you go as fast as possible and at the end [of Challenge Bahrain] it worked for me.”

A triathlon is split into three sports – swimming, cycling and running. In Challenge Bahrain, Michael Raelert completed a 1.9km swim, a 90km bike ride and a half marathon (21.1km). His finishing time was an impressive 3 hours and 36 minutes. During that time, he said he went as fast as he could and just kept going.

The challenge can be mentally grueling, so triathletes have to learn how to train their mind to cope with the pressures on the course. Michael Raelert said that his mental state changes during the course, depending on how well he is doing.

“It’s pretty easy to be in control of your mind if you are in the lead but if you get further back, you start asking yourself why the other guys are faster and you get in a little hole. I reckon it’s natural though,” he said.

“You’re frustrated when you lose a race or when you’re injured. Sometimes you are on top and feel great but on the other side, you are on the bottom. It is what it is.

“I never really did any mental training. For me, there isn’t a real routine. Of course I am nervous. I won’t sleep the last two days and I’m always waking up or running around just to get my adrenaline stable.

“Sport gives you this kind of feeling of nervousness.”

But Michael Raelert’s career has not just been filled with success and he has spent recent times overcoming injury. In 2013, he underwent surgery on his left knee to relieve inflammation caused by a mountain bike crash. Following this, he had to drop out of the Ironman 70.3 European Championships in Wiesbadan while he spent time overcoming injury.

So how did he overcome the devastating injury to place first in Challenge Bahrain? Michael Raelert talked to Thanypura about overcoming injury and how he changed his mental outlook on the situation.

He said: “I don’t know what happened but I figured out for myself that I can’t change the situation and that I have to live with [overcoming injury]. I got more relaxed because I tried to get the most out of it. It is what it is.

“It doesn’t matter if you get really frustrated and angry because it doesn’t change the situation. This view helps me to get through bad patches.”

 Overcoming injury: How does an injury affect athletes mentally?

Athletes push their bodies to the limit during training for big events, races or competitions. They spend hours upon hours building their strength, endurance and training their mind so that they can put their body to the test, when ready. But when an injury occurs, it seems that all that hard work was for nothing.

Injuries are unpredictable. They don’t have to be major injuries and you don’t need to feel your leg pop or break to understand when to stop. They can stop you competing and even training at all. This can affect you mentally. Overcoming injury is not just about treating the wound; it is also about treating your mind, so when you get back into training you have the confidence to know how far you can go – even after everything.

Michael Raelert spoke to Thanyapura about overcoming injury and how he changed his mindset. He said that although it got him down, after all his training, he still managed to figure out a way to control the controllables.

How can athletes overcome injuries mentally?

The psychological affect of overcoming injury for athletes is huge. They have spent all their time preparing for one of the biggest and most important days – race day – to have been told they can no longer compete. Overcoming injury is not about the physical pain, it is  about the mental pain as well. After an injury, athletes have to train their mind so that they don’t lose confidence in their ability.

This can be achieved in variety of ways including taking part in meditation classes to relax the body and free the mind from clutter. At Thanyapura, we offer meditation classes in the Thanyapura Mind Centre. Overcoming injury does not have to be as hard if you train the mind to deal with the situation.

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