Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 150 May 2022 | Page 61

walk this way by ZELDA BOTHA


walk this way by ZELDA BOTHA

A Mindset of Belief

It astonishes me that we sometimes forget how incredibly strong our minds can be , and that if you set your mind towards the path of success , you will achieve it .
Success is down to a combination of training and the right mindset
Overcoming Challenges
Not so long ago I was told by several people that I was past my “ sell-by date ” and should stop race walking . Instead , it gave me a reason to continue . You can only believe in your ability to succeed once you have repeatedly done the work in training , constantly spoken to yourself during training , and then played the training tape in your head over and over again . Your mind is so powerful that it will manifest your desire to achieve into your brain , so that when the day comes to execute the plan , you can do so !
I am not saying you can be lazy , skip training and just lay in your bed thinking of achievement , and you will succeed . No , instead I am saying , train as hard as you possibly can , listen to your coach and your plan , but also start believing that it ’ s possible to go faster . I was stuck at 5min / km for years . I just couldn ’ t get past it . Because I believed 5min / km was fast for a walker . Why ? Because people kept telling me so , and I started believing it . Instead , I should ’ ve acknowledged that I walked 5min / km and then aimed to go faster . my husband and said I wasn ’ t sure if I could repeat what I did today again the very next day , especially because I ’ ve never done this before in my life . Maybe with a day ’ s rest or so , but not the very next day again . My husband politely answered , “ If that ’ s your mindset , you might as well not even do the session , because you ’ ve already failed .”
He was right , and so was my coach . Just because you have never done something before doesn ’ t mean that you cannot do it . It simply means you haven ’ t tried yet . So , I went and smashed out another 5:30min / km session that next day . And since then , every session was about believing that I could do it .
Believe in Yourself
This April will not be the same as two years ago … This one will be filled with races , including the South African National Championships in April , so believe in your training and believe in your abilities !

This time two years ago , most of us racewalkers were locked inside our homes and forced to look for alternative ways to train and keep fit . I was lucky that I live with a husband that ’ s just as ambitious and positive as I am , so together we helped one another , and the most important lesson I learnt in lockdown , was training my mind to overcome the obstacles that life had suddenly thrown at us . I would therefore love to share some mindset tools I have been able to get from my coach , my husband and lessons along my journey .

Once I started with Coach Rob Heffernan , I remember doing this one particular session during our training camp in January . In the first week of camp , actually , so I definitely did not want to shame myself in front of all these Olympic athletes ! Coach asked me to do a 15km session at 5:30min / km pace , and then do a lactate test afterwards , so there I was , at the end of a 90km week , walking as hard as my legs could to manage the pace … just for the boys to tell me they forgot the lactate machine at home . Not a big deal , I thought , we can try again next week .
Images : Courtesy Zelda Botha
You can prepare your body to be the fittest and strongest , and have the most reliable team behind you , but without a strong mindset , you could lose the race you were destined to win . This is how I lost numerous championship races ... and even if I came first , my times were often slow . It was never a true reflection of what I have been capable of doing in training , and I often asked myself , how could I walk great times in training , yet fail to perform in races . Did I not have BMT ? Of course I had it – I proved that all through high school , and I certainly showed it again in the Poděbrady Race Walking International Meeting in 2019 , and throughout my 2021 season . I knew I had it , so what was going wrong ? It came down to one word : Mindset !
However , the next day I had a 20km on the programme , which I planned to take super easy , especially because of that day ’ s hard 15km . That night I spoke to my coach , asking him what pace he would like me to go at the next day , and his answer shocked me : “ Same as today , Zelda , 5:30min / km , and let ’ s not forget the lactate machine again , okay ?” I turned to
Hit the road with the belief that you can do it !
About the Author
Zelda Botha ( née Schultz ) won the 2019 SA 20km Road Race Walking title and the 2021 SA Track & Field Champs title , and she represented SA at the 2018 African Champs in Nigeria . She balances training and competing in racewalking with a full-time job as a surgical sales representative , and being married to top obstacle racer Armin Botha .