FC134: How to Break Records with the Right Mindset Feat. Roger Bannister

There are two sides to this, one, people need to see others do something before they put themselves in the light of possibility, before they know it’s possible. Only when they see it’s possible for others, then they start doing it.

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I know, I’ve been leaving you listeners high and dry for over a month now. If you’ve been pouring over the pep talk episodes in November and December 2015, hope they have been beneficial for you as an added boost to your training session.

How to Break Records with the Right Mindset Feat. Roger Bannister

How to Break Records with the Right Mindset Feat. Roger Bannister

If you haven’t already know, the mind can trick you into thinking anything.

I just got off a chat with an athlete trainee of mine. It was quite an intensive half an hour of coaching today, but we got off to a good start and managed to pin point the necessary areas that made her feel stuck for a long time. At certain point during this chat, I couldn’t help but started to reflect upon my own experience for many years as an athlete when I used to chase my own crazy goals and dream of larger than life things to achieve.

Anyway, this trainee is now training for an ultra marathon that will be held in May this year, and her goal is to run under 6 hours in 60km. For whatever reason, it doesn’t matter here. But problem for her getting a bit stuck is, she has an injury in her heel. I won’t get into too much detail in the injury as some of you listeners out there may not be runners.

Truth is, long distance running tends to injure many runners, due to many reasons, the common ones being the impact of every step you take, not doing proper warmups before the runs or cool downs after the runs. Could be the shoes or just not well conditioned enough and so on.

With facts like that, many experienced runners have since been advising this trainee of mine to think twice about going for the ultra marathon. She managed to go under 4 hours in a recent marathon of 42km, so she is now aiming to stretch her distance. But she isn’t fully confident she could manage that because of her injury. She didn’t want her body to deteriorate with her knowledge of how running can affect the body in a negative way.

It’s understandable, because as much as you can take precaution or apply ways to treat your injuries, at the back of your mind, you can’t help but keep telling yourself to stay safe or be wary of your actions so as to not aggravate your already injured situation.

You may not be suffering from the same condition, but maybe you are also in a similar predicament. I know it can be frustrating. Maybe you just went for a surgery to fix a tendon or you suffer immense pain from doing something you always do during training. Seems like nobody can help you. What should you do then?

Before we get to this, let’s back up a little bit.

Mindset of Believing in Yourself

After many years of being in a competitive team sport, as both a coach and athlete, I see so many kids, I mean they are adults, but because they are much younger than me, so I termed them as kids. Anyway, these athletes have so much in them, somehow they just cannot see it.

The trick is this, there’s a difference between knowing you can do it and get into action versus you aiming to achieve something and doing it to see and test if you can do it.

There are two sides to this, one, people need to see others do something before they put themselves in the light of possibility, before they know it’s possible. Only when they see it’s possible for others, then they start doing it.

On the flip side, people are able to create a vision or just some form of certainty that they can do something that nobody has ever done before, way way before anyone has ever done it and way before they themselves have accomplished it.

In this session we are going to discuss the topic of “believing in yourself mindset”.

I really believe in the psychology when it comes to training and competing in sports, in fact, in every little thing you do. Just that most times you are not that conscious about it. But face it, your mind is part of your body and it’s nature at work.

Mindsets are the key to understanding how to USE what you learn.
If you don’t have the correct mindset, you will not be able to use the techniques you learn effectively.

Mindset is like how you think and process outside information versus your own voice, your own thoughts. It’s essentially the way you are looking at the world. Okay, so this is my own way of interpreting it.

Well, according to Oxford Dictionary, the definition of mindset is “the established set of attitudes held by someone”. And it gave this example: “some people are stuck in the traditional mindset”.

Most times you don’t need to get complicated with all the science and how the chemistry of the different cells work. I love to really understand everything about that but in reality, all you need is a basic understanding of the psychology when it comes to cause and effect, how you respond to what’s outside of you and how you feel after something related to you happens.

For many people it’s how they feel, everyone wants to feel good and happy. Everyone wants to come out from a game or race feeling so satisfied with their own performances. It’s okay, it’s totally natural, but problem is many want to feel happy and wouldn’t think twice to feel that way in the expense of others or doing something outwardly to feel full of themselves. A lot of things are done for the sake of face value.


On the other side of it, there are people who are not full of themselves, but dwell in depression and despair when they realised people around them are talking bad behind their backs, or they didn’t think they did as well as they should and that the whole world is against them now. The word is “dwelling”.

You must be thinking what has this got to do with doing better in your sport? Keep listening, you will get to this soon.

Thing is, it doesn’t seem very direct, this thing between being kinder to people and how you perform in your sport.

I’m not talking about purposely being kind to others with the motivation of getting something back from the other party. Maybe we can ignore that for a moment.

Responsibility and Respect – The 3 Rs

I’m talking about taking responsibility and earning respect here.

Very simply, sports are largely about these two things, the two big ‘Rs’ I would say.
Having these two big things internalised in your mind and body leads to you being kinder to yourself and being kinder to others and that creates a cycle, a very positive cycle.

So, remember these two words: “Responsibility and Respect”.

If you look at these two words on their own, you know what they mean. You literally know what they are about and what they can do for you in life, yes. But are you practicing them first in your mind? I’m not talking about you looking at others displaying responsibility and earning respect. That’s too easy. It’s easy to observe and criticise others and forgive ourselves when we make the same mistakes as them.

Say for example if your teammate makes a bad move in a game, say a poor service in tennis. You’d probably throw your hands up in the air and swear at him or her. Then you might think they could have done better than that and start to direct them or correct their mistakes. How about yourself? When you made that same mistake, did you gave yourself an excuse for that mistake? Did you blame the weather? Did you blame your injury?

You get the point, I’m referring to you looking at yourself. Ask yourself, if the whole world is to start pointing their fingers at you for something you didn’t do. What would you do?

I’m not going to answer this for you. Think about it, I can do another episode on this topic another time. Just think about it and if you can’t wait for the episode on this topic, send me a tweet now @marilynwo.

So now we have 3 things, “mindset”, “kinder”, “responsibility and respect”, how do they relate?

Especially when it comes to the whole world pointing their fingers at you. What are you responsible for? Maybe you don’t feel respected or you don’t respect the world. Haven’t you realised this happens all the time?

This happens all the time in reality and in many of our minds, it magnifies like tenfold, and that’s the problem.

This magnification affects everything you do, in how you train, when you train, how many times you train, what sport you are in, and ultimately, your performance at the end of the day.

You know what? It is not the world that causes you to be so depressed. Your own imagination of magnifying these fingers pointing at you is the thing that affects your self-beliefs. It’s your own imagination.


The world may be powerful to shape you, but if you start with your mindset, you can control your thoughts to reshape what the world is presenting to you. Okay, I’m not here to convince you to think like me, but I see so many athletes want the wrong things.

What I’ve experienced, especially coaching and meeting many athletes with unique personalities, what people want to learn first, is the techniques, they want the tricks, they want to skip all the fundamentals right to “yes, but what do I do”.

“What to do” is of course important, taking the “what to do” and using it in your life, you can use it to learn mindsets as well. But I’ve found that learning the mindset theories first can put you way ahead of the curve.

Ultimately, what the world thinks is also important to what you do, I’m not saying what the world says is absolutely false. Don’t get confused here.

But because you are not the world and the world is not you. If you start with “what to do” first and want to master the same thing as the world this moment, you will feel frustrated trying to satisfy that side of you. This explains your time being stuck, your time being jaded and your time being unhappy with your performance.

Let me ask you another question, stick with me here.

If you were given a box of puzzles to fix, what is the first thing you would do? There are two ways: Number one, you would either start with taking all the pieces out and just try to put them together, or, number two, you would start by first looking at the box as a whole, notice and figure out what is the final picture, then you open the box, set the corners and sides first, then you put the pieces together in the middle with the image of the picture in your mind. Make sense?

Ultimately you would end up doing both, but what am I trying to say here?

Yes, how you get started is key to when and where you will end up.
Most importantly, it will lead to how you will feel as you go through the process.

So the world may point their fingers at you, but if you start with their pointy little fingers, you will find yourself feeling angry most of the time because there seemed to be a never ending series of fingers coming at you, much like starting the puzzle by first fixing all the pieces in the middle.

Challenge the Worldview

But if you start within yourself looking at the big picture of what you want from your game, not IN your game, not IN your sport, but FROM your sport, taking responsibility of creating your own world first by just observing the box without judgement, then taking the pieces out to fix the corners and sides. Only after that is done, then you move on to fix the inside pieces.

Take notice though, when you fix the pieces inside. Many athletes I know do have the sides and corners done, but when it comes to the inside pieces, they tend to fit the pieces totally by trial and error without referring to the image in their mind. Then, again, they feel frustrated and some of them just gave up along the way.

At this point in time, always always refer back to your mind’s vision of that box image, start with a corner and fit the pieces that will fill that section up to lead you to the next piece and so on.

Of course in real life when you do puzzles you have the box there and you can refer to it anytime. How about you challenge yourself to a puzzle making sprint by fixing one up without referring to the box. That could be an exercise to train your mental imagery skills. Try that and let me know how it goes.

For the sake of today’s theme as a featured class, I would like to bring in a case study to illustrate this point of believing in yourself.

Roger Bannister

Once upon a time nobody thought anyone could ever run a mile in under 4 minutes.

Then in 1954, the world met this man called Roger Bannister. At that time, he was the first human to run a mile in under 4 minutes and it shocked the world.

Why was the world shocked?

In those day and age, research showed that it is not humanly possible for anyone to run a mile under 4 minutes. It was said that the human body is just not capable to achieve such a timing.

People never think of what the mind can achieve, they only thought of the physical barriers of humans.

Today, the fastest timing for one mile is 3 minutes 43 seconds and 13 milliseconds to be exact, incase anyone else hits 3 mins and 43 seconds 00 milliseconds as I speak.

Point is, right after Bannister made a mark, someone else also ran a mile under 4 minutes. Then more runners made it. Today, it’s not abnormal anymore. Now you’ll get to meet many kids who can run as fast as Bannister.

What did people in those days think before Roger Bannister came along?
When Roger Bannister broke the record, what was the first thing the world thought of? Was it, “what did Roger do to be so fast?” or was it “what did Roger think about to be able to break the record”.

The point I’m driving at here isn’t so much about the timing, or that he won a race. What we all should learn from this story is the power of beliefs and our thought process of looking at the world that leads to the outcome in reality.

A lot of problem for us athletes or just anyone at all, need not necessarily be just athletes. We have a tendency to work on something based on statistics or what others have experienced.

But for Bannister, there was no proof! People say he “redefined what the human body can achieve”. Maybe that’s the problem when the media hyped things up, people start to think that breaking records is something that’s impossible that when someone really breaks a record, it means this person did the impossible.

For Bannister, a fear of failure – as much as a quest for glory – drove him on. He says he knew if he did not hit that tape in under four minutes, “the world would be a cold and forbidding place”.

What was the magic ingredient that allowed him to conquer this fear?

Roger Bannister said: “The final bit is mental. I am sure of that. The successful runner is the one who can take more out of himself than he has.”

It’s not unthinkable, we need to start believing and thinking that breaking records are not impossible. We need to think that breaking records is no big deal.

If anything is impossible, nobody would have broken records.

How can any record stand the same?

We evolve and things can change.

It doesn’t happen only in sports. It could be climbing Everest or putting a man on the moon. The fundamental here is how we think when it comes to advancement and change.

Roger Bannister was predicted to win gold at the Olympic Games in Helsinki two years before he broke the 4 minute mile record. He came in fourth in the Olympics and the media put him down as a failure.

He didn’t rise from nowhere to break the record.
At the same time, it wasn’t his physical body that defy what’s humanly possible, it was how he programmed his mind to see the possibility of what he can do in a different light from the masses.

We all like to put people in boxes and the world likes to put others in boxes. It’s inevitable, you can never change that on your own terms. But what you can do is to challenge that based on what you see from your own mind.

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Awesome show today.

Where to Start?

Back to my trainee’s situation or maybe an injury that you are experiencing right now. I’m not asking you to risk your life to a degree of breaking your bones to bits.

When it comes to the physical aspect, you may wish to learn from Bannister.

Roger Bannister’s preparation was based on two principles: race -specific training and enhancement of recovery.

It’s probably no different than what you have been doing.

My trainee also told me she is wary of her injury but she has decided to just train for the ultra marathon till she couldn’t do it. She wants to see how far she can go. My advise for my trainee and you is, to have that vision of your arrival first. Don’t wait till you reach to know you can reach. Right now, the picture in your mind, you are already sure that you have reached. Then you work backwards.

Fix your fundamental, that is your mindset.

Point is, where is your starting point? Do you fix your puzzle pieces first or look at the big picture, then start with a structure by fixing the corners?

Actionable Tip of the Day

Go fix some puzzles. Really, get a box of puzzle, complete that in the two ways separately.

Any thoughts, you can find me on Twitter @MarilynWo

See you tomorrow.

Big thanks to Dexter Britain for composing such wonderful inspiring music: The Time to Run

Show Links:

‘I gave it everything’: Sir Roger Bannister marks 60 years since his record.” – The telegraph

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