Non Stanford on how to build a winning mentality

World champion triathlete Non Stanford reveals how to master your mind and unleash your true athletic potential.


by Runner's World x New Balance
World champion triathlete and member of Team NB Non Stanford

World champion triathlete and member of Team NB, Non Stanford talks though her secrets to mental preparation and strength.

How important is mental preparation to your own performance and life in general?

It’s important to go into a race, or indeed training, in the right frame of mind; as well as the obvious physical demands, triathlon is also psychologically demanding, and the two are very closely linked. Your mind often sets limits below what the body is capable of, and it can be hard to convince yourself to push beyond those limits. It is therefore important to ready yourself mentally, as much as physically, for the challenge that lies ahead.

What kind of mental preparation do you go through before a race?

I race at my best when I am relaxed. It is easy to overthink a race and obsess over the outcome before you even start. You often have time to kill before a race, and for me it is key to switch off and distract myself from what lies ahead instead of thinking endlessly about it. I’ll generally watch a film, chat to friends or read a book. I only really tune into racing half an hour before I leave the hotel.

Do you have any tips on how to get into 'the zone' before a run?

Don’t psyche yourself out by focusing on the outcome. That can be scary and is often when self-doubt creeps in. Instead motivate yourself by enjoying more attainable and less daunting goals; getting your warm up done, controlling the pace during that first kilometre, relaxing your shoulders when things get a bit tough, calming your breathing during those final kilometres.

Are there any examples where a strong mental resolve to win has seen you overcome physical challenges you didn't think possible?

I don’t think I’ve achieved anything I’ve ever thought was impossible, but maybe that in itself is a testimony to my mental resolve. Taking myself from beginner triathlete to world champion in five years was probably a physical challenge that most would deem undoable. When I started I wasn’t exactly visualising myself in a rainbow jersey, but I never put barriers up; once one challenge was met, I looked to the next.

It was a rollercoaster five years, with lots of steep learning curves and tough lessons. I don’t think many would have backed me to step into the elite ranks let alone on to podiums. I think I’m fortunate to be characteristically strong minded and independent.

What's the hardest mental challenge you've ever faced?

I think spending 18 months out of the sport with injury. It was the winter after my 2013 world title and I was determined to make 2014 just as golden. I pushed too hard, too often, always wanting more from myself. The result was a pretty nasty plantar fascia tear a week before I was due to fly out to Auckland to start the annual campaign.

There’s the obvious heartache and frustration of injury to deal with, but then there’s the comeback. And I think that was the toughest; the self-doubt, the fear of the unknown, the fear of expectation from all those who remember you at your best. My last race pre-injury I was crowned World Champion and 18 months later, I’m stood on a start line in Japan feeling like the new kid at school. Putting yourself back out there, dealing with those demons, that was mentally tough.


New Balance Toughest Opponent is a story about the battles we have within ourselves. The niggling mind games that play out between our ears that make us question whether to run that extra mile, to lift that heavier weight, or to go forward and push harder, faster and stronger than we did the day before. Find out more at: www.newbalance.co.uk/ToughestOpponent


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