Of all the body parts we train, none is more important than the mind.
There is an obsession in triathlon with logbooks and data, with tracking how far and how fast we have gone in our latest session. People think that if their logbook is in order, then so must be their preparation.
But it's when the discomfort strikes that they realize a strong mind is the most powerful weapon of all.
This is more or less the first thing my coach said to me, even if his macabre observation that he needed to "cut my head off" was a somewhat unconventional means of conveying that message. I was fretful and obsessive when I first turned pro, running at everything like a bull out of a gate.
"The training you got a handle on," he told me. "The walking around in nerd land you have not. You get over that the same way as you improve an athletic weakness -- by knowing and training it out. Life is nothing but a habit. Get to work."
I believe that it is my mind that has carried me through to some of my greatest victories -- a mind that I have had to work hard to train and hone.
The CNN Fit Nation Team will be no different. Training the brain will be as important as training the body. And although some characteristics are innate (self-motivation, drive, determination, stubbornness), I also think that there are strategies and tools that you can learn, develop and deploy.
Remaining positive really is one of the most precious faculties for any athlete. That and an ability to stay focused and disciplined. I encourage every member of the Fit Nation team to develop a mind bank of positive images and thoughts -- family, friends, previous successes, favorite places, a big pizza. They will need to build it up as they would any collection, but soon they will have a range of thoughts to flick through when their bodies are screaming for them to stop.
I also write my own mantra on my race wristband: "Never, ever give up -- and smile." It might not be the same for everyone, but smiling, for me, is crucial.
First of all, it relaxes my face and gives me a lift. Second, it shows how much I love the sport. We need to take triathlon seriously, but ultimately it is something to be enjoyed. Through my smile, I like to convey that joy and passion for what I am doing. Third, a smile is often useful to mask the pain and covey the impression that I am finding things easy.