• Triathlete Anja Beranek at swim practice.

    Triathlete Anja Beranek: Motivation is something you can learn.

    These are the techniques that the best German in the IRONMAN World Championship 2016 uses for competitions.

    Text: Marcel Schlegel | Photos: Tobias Kuberski

Beranek gets up again and again.

Anja Beranek has dealt with many hurdles in her career. At the IRONMAN in Hawaii in 2013 she was forced to give up. A year later she fell at her home race in Roth, Germany. The triathlete was plagued by the idea of retirement. But Beranek fought back, gritted her teeth and ended the classic in Hawaii last year as the best German in the race – her sporting highlight. For Beranek triathlon means facing new challenges every day. With the joy that a successful training or competition brings, Anja Beranek truly enjoys her profession. “You have to find something you burn for,” she says. “It is crucial to be able to re-motivate yourself.” She calls this “long-term motivation”.

How do you achieve this? “You have to set ambitious but realistic goals, always explore your physical limits, and find the right balance,” answers the world-class triathlete. Thus Beranek sets herself three times before starting a competition; by using these she can estimate her form: optimum, normal and a minimum time. “I don’t always reach the best. Sometimes you have to be satisfied with the minimum goal,” says Anja Beranek.

Triathlete Anja Beranek and her Marco Polo

PowerLady uses the Marco Polo as a retreat.

But what does the triathlete mean by balance? Balance, says Beranek, begins before the competition, in training and even away from sport. This also includes choosing the right equipment. For example, the triathlete banks on the Marco Polo. The Mercedes-Benz camper van is the perfect training partner for Beranek. “In my Marco Polo, I effortlessly stow everything I need for training and competitions,” says the 32-year-old. “Often, however, the van also serves as a retreat.” Beranek loves training in the great outdoors. “I am an all-weather person and find it great to sit in the sun and drink tea after a workout,” says Beranek. “It's great to have a van which makes me even more flexible and with which I can be outside and still have a roof over my head.”
For Anja Beranek, motivation is also the result of a long-term training plan, which makes her progress visible. “We triathletes are always at the frontier,” says the 2016 German champion over the long distance. “You should not always exceed this.” How can you do that? “You have to learn to read the signals of your body.” But what happens if the body goes on strike during a competition? How can your mind jump into the breach, so to speak, and work as a mental motor? In these kinds of situations, Anja Beranek uses her “box of mental tools”, as she calls them. These techniques were developed together with a mind coach.

1. Focus on the positive.

Whenever you threaten to fail in competition or in everyday life, negative feelings dominate. When you doubt, you fight more with yourself than against the others – and if you do not counteract, then failure threatens. “In these kinds of situations, you have to remember the beautiful things you've experienced in the race,” advises Anja Beranek. “That evokes feelings of happiness. Only with a positive attitude can it work.”

Triathlete Anja Beranek is riding a bike.
Anyone who drives in the fast lane also needs a time out. Anja Beranek relaxes with her family and her Marco Polo.

2. More motivation with mantras.

Anja Beranek overcomes inner blockages by using mantras. These can be phrases such as “I can do it!” or “I’m doing my thing”. Her own personal drive: “A song that my nieces always sing when they cheer me on,” says Beranek, smiling. “This song gives me the rhythm and the thought of my nieces gives me new strength.”

3. Visualize success.

Only what can be imagined can actually happen at all. That is why Anja Beranek uses her “picture book” when she experiences a slump. In this she collects not only motivational sentences but also photos.

“These are images of situations in which I felt strong,” explains the exceptional triathlete. “If I hit a slump in the race then I recall these visualizations and I feel strong again.”

4. Accept the fear.

No matter how often you face a challenge, the fear of the task remains. “This is good and it just has to be like this,” says Anja Beranek. She then looks more closely, analyzes the task at hand, and mostly remarks, “I am prepared. This way, fear becomes respect for the task and that is something good.”

The triathlete knows: “You should never lose respect for the competition, the challenge and your own limits.”

5. Suppress negative thoughts.

According to Anja Beranek, it mostly helps to turn off your brain and only focus on the goal: this can be a long-term goal or an opponent that you want to beat to the finish line. “Then it is time to switch off your mind and attack!”

Anja Beranek stands in front of her Marco Polo.
Motivation can be learned - this is one of Anja Beranek’s mantras. With mantras like "I can do it" motivation can be increased.

6. Learn from defeats.

Sometimes, however, you cannot advance, no matter how much you try. “Giving up is hard and rare, but sometimes you have to accept the failure,” says Anja Beranek. Her message: “You can learn a lot more from defeats than from victories.” You have to work out the defeat exactly and possibly reinterpret it. “Often you can see that it just was not possible,” says Beranek. “This way, you work out the reasons and you leave the setback stronger than when you entered it.”