Many serious cyclists dream of their children finding fame and fortune on a bike, following in the footsteps of other great young riders including Tejay van Garderen and Taylor Phinney. But the question to ask is what does it take to become a great cyclist? There are three components (pun intended)…
It’s easy, it’s free, and it works – for many. With visualization, you can build self-confidence, rehearse riding skills, simulate handling challenging situations, and approach the actual experience of achieving any of your goals…all in the cozy corners of your own mind. The mentally fit cyclist harnesses the power of the imagination to improve performance on the bike.
Negative thinking, especially during difficult rides, will certainly hurt your cycling confidence and prevent you from riding your best and achieving your cycling goals. Your goal is to retrain your negative thinking into positive thinking and high confidence that propels you to your very best rides.
It’s one week before the first race of the season (at least it is here in sunny Southern California) and your training has been good, but not great. You’ve missed some important workouts and you haven’t quite lost all that holiday weight. What’s the prescription for a one-week, best ride of your life, last minute training program?
We’re so often looking for ways to improve ourselves so that our performance and enjoyment in cycling will improve. In addition to working so hard on your cycling, though, how about letting cycling work more deeply on you? Cycling, like all sports, can be a force for learning, change, and growth…which you can bring right back to the bike.
The thrill of beating a competitor to the finish line. The satisfaction of leaving it all out there. The fulfillment of helping a teammate. All are welcome rewards of competing. But what can the heat of competition transform within you? The mentally fit cyclist uses competition to grow not only as an athlete but as a human being – to develop the self-awareness, emotional skills, and authenticity that translates directly into better experiences on and off the bike.
Relationships – with friends, family, coaches, health care practitioners, teammates, training partners, yourself, even competitors – affect sport performance. An important component in your web of relationships is the support for your riding: If you have the support you need, you’re more likely to have fun and achieve your goals. The mentally fit cyclist knows which types of support to look for, ask for and put in place.
It’s the time of year when, after a long season, you may be dragging. Have you been overtraining? Down about your results? Or are you just plain worn out? The mentally fit cyclist notices signs of demotivation early, interprets and responds to the signs effectively, and avoids descending into exhaustion, burnout, or depression.
Support for your riding comes not only from other people in your life. It also comes from you. Or does it? Giving yourself what you need – and not giving yourself what you don’t need – affects your performance, fun, and results on the bike. The mentally fit cyclist knows what kinds of self-support are most important, along with when – and how – to provide it.
Your legs are burning. Your lungs are burning. Thoughts of flaming out, backing off, or giving up are dancing in your tortured mind. What will you do next? The mentally fit cyclist is highly skilled in responding to suffering, and thus has a distinct advantage over many competitors.
In my last article, I looked at the issue of sports confidence by comparing and contrasting two recent days I had on the bike, one full of fire and confidence and the other the opposite feelings of self-doubt and thoughts of quitting. But enough about rank amateurs like me, what about the top professionals?
When cycling, we are all seeking the Holy Grail of peak fitness and form, that “no chains” day where riding seems effortless. But besides optimal physical preparation, the other important and often overlooked ingredient is effective sport psychology, and the role that confidence plays in peak performance.
Another article on goal setting? Really? How hard can it be? If 2014 was everything you planned it to be, congratulations and no need to read any further. However, if things got away from you or you are ending the year feeling that things were left undone, read on for more information on how to make the most of your goals.
We discover our potential – as athletes and as human beings – by challenging (what appear to be) our limits. Yet sometimes we’re hesitant to challenge ourselves. And at other times, we’re not hesitant enough. The skill of setting, knowing, and effectively challenging limits is an improvable, integral element of every cyclist’s mental fitness.
There's a tension, at times, in cycling. There's the allure of individual progress, achievement, and glory, and the benefits of teamwork and contributing to other riders' success. The mentally fit cyclist skillfully manages this tension, striking a balance between personal goals and those of the group, team, and sport.
Endings often turn out to be beginnings. For instance, waking up in the hospital after stage two of the 2004 Redlands Classic with no memory of how I got there seemed to be the end of my racing career. In fact, it ended up being the beginning of my journey into the world of sports psychology.
Improving any aspect of your mental fitness starts with self-awareness. Thoughts, feelings, attitudes, beliefs, sense memories, behaviors – all are raw material for the growth of the mental side of your game. The mentally fit cyclist makes ongoing self-awareness a priority, and uses it to strengthen core mental skills.
After you’ve been injured, it’s natural to focus on the physical side of recovery. But what about the mental consequences of injury, and the steps you can take to overcome them? We talk with Ted King of Liquigas-Cannondale and Dr. Renee Newcomer Appaneal of UNC Greensboro about their experiences. The mentally fit cyclist integrates a variety of mental skills into a complete recovery strategy.
After a crash – whether you’re in it, see it, or hear about it – it can be difficult to get your mojo back. And even when you’ve had a complete physical recovery, the mental side of your recovery can lag behind. When you focus on developing and using specific mental skills, you can speed both sides of your recovery and accelerate your return to optimal performance.
Crashes – being in them, seeing them, hearing about them – are a part of life for us cyclists. In addition to any physical healing that needs to happen, there are things you can do to accelerate the mental side of your recovery. The quicker you recover mentally, the quicker you’ll be back out there performing at your best.