5 Key Attributes of Winning Athletes

By: Hunter Allen

Winners think differently.  They do.  There are many books on winners and why they are different, what they think and why they think it.  Winners are constantly focused on moving forward, getting things done, taking action and improving.  Whether it’s on the bicycle, in the pool, on the soccer field or in the office, winners are striving for the best they can be.   They aren’t afraid of hard work, as a matter of fact they love it, they crave it, and they absorb it and become better from it.   I believe winners are made and not born.  Each one of us has winning qualities and the ability to win; we just have to put these things together in order to achieve greatness.

1. Winners Set Goals

Winners have long term goals, short term goals, weekly and daily goals.  Most winners, you’ll find are highly goal oriented.  When a winner wants something, they really want it. They want it more than the rest of their competitors.  I have heard it said many times and believe its true, “The rider that wins the race is the rider that wanted it more than anyone else.” Sit down today or this weekend and write out your goals for the year and review them each week. Your goals will change throughout the year and you’ll want to revise them and update them as needed.  Your goals will help you keep focused!

2. Winners Make Good Decisions

This one is a bit obtuse and obvious at the same time.  What is a good decision vs. a bad decision?  If you don’t know the difference then how will you know which one to make?   Instead of eating that hamburger and fries, a winner would eat a healthy lean steak, baked potato and a salad.  Instead of going for a 5 hour bike ride with his teammates on a day when “something just doesn’t feel right”, he’ll honor that feeling and either take a rest day or ride a shorter ride.  Winners don’t lie around and wait for success to come to them (except on rest days!); they take action to move toward it every day.   Instead of thinking about whether to go with that attack or not, a winner will have already planned their strategy and not have to think about it.  They will know if that attack fits into their strategy and know if the riders attacking are good enough to win and react accordingly without hesitation.   

3. Winners Play to Win

This seems like a simple one and to tell you the truth, it is, however you would be amazed at how many people reading this right now don’t have a plan to get that next raise in their job, peak exactly at the right time for their “A” race, go above and beyond on that big project at the office or take their company to the next level.   Sit down, plan out your season, figure out which races you want to ride well in and refer to #3 above in aligning your own specific strengths and weaknesses with the race demands.

4. Winners Visualize Success

Visualization is an incredible tool in helping to align the universe to bring all the necessary situations and opportunities to you so that you can capitalize and win. Visualization is more important than most people think. When you visualize vividly enough to create emotion in the vision, your mind doesn’t know the difference between that and the real thing.  One key aspect of visualization is picturing the things that happen after you have achieved a goal.  For me, I have been focused on creating a great camp in Mallorca in March this year, so I have been picturing myself at the little Spanish store on the top of the Lluc climb in Mallorca drinking a great coffee and eating a chocolate croissant with happy campers all laughing and enjoying themselves. I have been imagining riding up the climbs and seeing 320 watts on my power meter and feeling comfortable and strong!  Visualization is critical for your success this season.  If you want to win a race this year, “see” your name at the top of the results sheet, feel the feeling of all your teammates congratulating your win, see that podium pic on your Facebook account.  By visualizing the things that occur after your goal has been realized is an incredibly powerful way to make that a reality.   

5. Winners are constantly learning and asking questions.

Winners are confident, but never so confident to think they know it all.  They are always seeking the advice of experts, looking for an advantage, seeking the latest knowledge in the field and doing everything they can to improve. Companies that never innovate or improve their product are destined for failure.   Athletes that stop reading about the latest in training advances or nutrition or mental training are destined for failure.  Keep your zest for learning. Get a new book on winners, or on cycling, or mental training for athletes.  Learn about the latest in nutrition and diet and find the right balance for your life.  Seek out the advice of an expert and listen wholeheartedly and then implement their advice.

Winning is easier when you are winning, that’s for sure. Success is an upward spiral and it’s much easier when you are in that upward spiral, but trust me, winners go in downward spirals too. The difference between the winners and the losers are the winners know how to “pull up” and get back in that winning upward spiral.  You’ll have setbacks, challenges, and failures along the way. That is part of the process and completely natural.  Winners have to deal with all of that as well.  If winning was easy, then it wouldn’t be as satisfying!  Remember no matter how bad things look or the time since your last win, and hope seems gone.. “The winners are still winning”…..

Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former Professional Cyclist. He is the co-author of both “Training and Racing with a Power Meter“, and “Triathlon Training With Power”, co-developer of TrainingPeaks Software, and is the CEO and Founder of the Peaks Coaching Group.