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.
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.
North American pro cyclists have to build mental fitness quickly when they make the leap to living, training, and racing in Europe. Pez talks candidly about mental skills with Andy Hampsten, Meredith Miller, and Amber Rais, who share wisdom that we mere mortals can use 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.
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.
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.
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.
Failure: Are you defining and managing it effectively, or is it defining you? Wrestling successfully with the interpretation, role, and consequences of failure are common challenges for the mentally fit athlete. Consciously working with your experience of failure – rather than defaulting to one that is too habitual and narrow – can dramatically enrich your riding and your results.
You’re on the start line of your event – a race, a century, maybe that group ride that keeps kicking your butt. You’ve been working hard on your physical fitness, and you know your body’s capable of what you’re going to ask of it today. But what about your mind? Is it at its best, or in the way? By the time an event begins, the mentally fit cyclist has consciously created the state of mind that maximizes the likelihood of peak performance.
Mental skills: We’re usually using them so we can go faster, suffer longer, and achieve more. How about using our mental fitness to let go of goals that no longer serve us? Former pro cyclists Laura Charameda, Frankie Andreu, and Dylan Casey help us understand what we can learn about letting go from their experiences leaving the pro peloton.
So often we increase our performance and enjoyment on the bike by taking action: training a limiter, improving a skill, taming the mind. But sometimes, it’s better to give in than to dig in. The mentally fit cyclist knows when letting go – rather than pushing harder, doing more, or hanging on – is the best way forward.
Cyclists in a stage race like the Tour of California are heralded, justifiably, for their physical fitness, skills, and ability. Yet it’s so often the mental side of their game that sets them apart from their competitors. Pez talks candidly with Amber Neben, Scott Nydam, Christine Thorburn, and Tom Zirbel about what it takes – mentally – to succeed in a stage race, and how we mere mortals can apply that wisdom on and off the bike.
In cycling, you’re constantly confronted with a choice of whether or not – and how much – to apply your will. When do you attack, and when do you let the race come to you? When do you push (too) hard in a workout, and when do you skip it? The mentally fit cyclist strives for the right combination of exerting control and letting go.
Amateur and professional cyclists spend a great deal of time, energy, and money on physical fitness, and rightly so. And yet, it is often mental fitness that makes the difference in riding, training, and competition. When you assess the mental skills you need on the bike, and begin improving the skills that aren’t yet strong enough, you’re on your way to getting much more from the sport.
The fear of crashing is a basic, normal – but often hidden – fear for cyclists, a fear that has surfaced more prominently in the aftermath of Wouter Weylandt’s tragic death at the Giro d’Italia. The mentally fit cyclist has a variety of healthy ways to cope with the danger inherent in the sport, creating the freedom to experience and enjoy cycling fully.
Your teammates aren’t cooperating enough in races. A fellow rider is at risk – or is putting others at risk – but is unaware. The peloton needs organization to catch the breakaway. Both on and off the bike, you have many opportunities to influence other cyclists for their benefit, for yours, and for the good of the team/group. The mentally fit cyclist uses leadership skills to seize those opportunities and improve the cycling experience.