Super League Engine Room: SLT Psychologist Beata Justkowiak & The Importance Of Resilience For Athletes

“If you make a mistake, if you fail, ask yourself two questions. What do I feel now, and what was in my control? Step back, consider what you could change, and move forward. Then you have your lesson. This is the structure of how to deal with failure, and how to learn from it.”

We all have a discussion with ourselves when racing/training, we have that voice talking to us, trying to derail our progress, or tell us we’re not good enough. What if you knew how to control that voice, what if that voice was designed by you to keep you going, a bespoke motivator specifically for you and your needs at that moment? Well, we know how, and it’s something we can all learn how to do.

Beata Justkowiak is the Super League Triathlon (SLT) psychologist, on hand whenever the athletes need her, and sometimes even when they think they don’t. She provides a connecting point between the body and the mind, between thought and execution, and another rung on the ladder that leads to that optimum performance on race day.

As part of the network of specialists, SLT provides to the athletes throughout their journey Beata knows just what it takes to manage their mental preparation.

“Everyone likes to win, and I believe that our mind is a designer, and our body is a performer. If you do not design well then you do not perform as well as you want. Only through connecting body and mind can you really get 100% out of your capabilities and push the bar higher.”

But what is it that normally limits people? What holds the mind back from being the perfect designer, laying the foundations for the body to operate?

“Self-limitations. Self-beliefs. Usually, we don’t focus on self-beliefs, we focus on stress, on what triggers stress, how we deal with it, what emotions we feel, and we don’t think about who we are, who we want to be.”

She is forceful about how important it is to understand the positive requirements of your mind before you think about what you’re trying to change.

“What do you believe in as an athlete? What kind of motivational quotes work for you? Then we can use this as a guide, and design our activities and performance around that. These are all mental skills that are applicable in a triathlon but at the same time in life.”

What would she suggest to you to improve your mental design?

“Try inner talk, working on inner dialogue, what kind of words you say to yourself. Don’t design what you want to tell yourself, but instead focus first on what it is you need to hear. Keep recording your thoughts, and you can then realise how critical or how judgemental you are because you are. Your mind doesn’t know the word no. If you use it in your inner dialogue then it is not even a word. For example, if you say, don’t give up, all that gets to your mind is give up. Apply positive reinforcement but allow yourself to be you.”

What does she think are commonalities shared by most triathletes?

 “Most of them are chasers. They need to feel like they are hunting or chasing someone. The problem starts when they realise they are the leader and there is no one left to chase. They then start thinking externally rather than internally, about the other competitors rather than themselves. This uses up energy that could be used to increase their own performance.”

Why are triathletes the best in the world, what makes them rise above the rest?

 “I think with triathletes, more than any other athlete, you can be really direct. You can cut all the bull, and get to the point immediately because they don’t have time for analysis. They train in three disciplines, so they are already geared towards maximising time gains and getting down to it.”

She thinks triathletes may be hard-wired for improvement, preconditioned to let self-belief in.

“Most of them really believe two things – I don’t give up, and I am unstoppable.”

SLT goes the extra mile in supporting our athletes, allowing them access to our network of specialists, drawing on years of experience, and specialist knowledge. The mind is one important element, what do you know about your subconscious? What works for you, and makes you believe success is possible? Get to know what drives you, and then start designing your own subconscious voice that’ll be there for you when things get tough.