How the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt mentally prepares for a race

World Championships in Berlin. He ran the 100-meter in 9.58 seconds and the 200-meter in 19.19 seconds. And he was part of the 4×100-meter world-record-holding relay team at the London 2012 summer Olympics.

Bolt is also the only sprinter to have win 100-meter and 200-meter titles at three consecutive Olympics in 2008, 2012 and 2016.

But sprinting isn’t just a physical sport, says Bolt, 34. It’s a mental game, too.

“It’s 50/50,” Bolt tells CNBC Make It. “You can be really fit but if you’re not mentally prepared for the challenge ahead, at times, you will fail.”

For Bolt, it’s about not getting “into his head.” When he does, that’s when he makes mistakes, he says.

“Because at times you get into your head and you start thinking about your weaknesses,” Bolt says.

Bolt’s weakness is his start and making his first step quickly, he says.

So “I tend to randomly think about anything else but the race” at the track, he says. “I might think about playing video games or what I might have [to eat] after the race.” Sometimes he thinks about how he will celebrate if he wins, he says.

“These are the things [I use] to distract myself before a race,” he says, “because when they say, ‘on your marks,’ you have no time think about anything else.”

Once Bolt is running, he says he experiences “flow,” an optimal state of consciousness that athletes often describe as a sense of oneness with whatever task they are doing when they are not worried about failure or other distractions.

“Sometimes, it’s like time is moving slow” when he’s running and in “flow,” Bolt says.

He also focuses on making sure he executes the plan that he and his coach Glen Mills discussed earlier that day.

But as much as Bolt is mentally and physically prepared as a world-class sprinter, he also attributes his success to his love of running.

“I enjoyed the process. I had fun while doing it. Yes, it was work but for me, it really wasn’t ‘work,’” Bolt says.

After four years of not racing, Bolt announced Tuesday that he plans to run an 800-meter race live at his home track in Kingston, Jamaica on July 13 to promote the used car website CarMax, as a spokesperson.

Though he hasn’t been racing, Bolt does hit the track.

“I have a bet with my friends because they feel in a couple of years, I’m going to be fat,” Bolt says. So he runs at least two times a week and does aerobic workouts in between to stay in shape, he says.

He also avoids late-night snacking. “I try to eat no later than 8 p.m.,” he says.

On Father’s Day, Bolt announced the birth of his twin sons with his partner Kasi Bennett in an Instagram post. In 2020, the pair welcomed their first child, Olympia Lightning.

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