What's Cool In Road Cycling

Toolbox: Mental Preparation

Preparation is important in any sport but especially in cycling. With so many uncontrollable variables in this sport, anything you can do to control what can be controlled will improve your chance at success, however you may define it. Let’s look at a key part of good preparation today that could completely transform your perfromance – good mental preparation.

My loyal readers, you know that I like to challenge you. Make you think. Challenge you to look at your riding and your training in new and different ways. You’ve worked hard over the years so I think you deserve a break. Therefore I am going to spoon-feed you one. A freebie.

Just a do this and you will ride better kind of thing.

I’ve written you a script.

Be in Control
In the past I’ve talked about the importance of preparation. Preparation is important in any sport but especially in cycling. With so many uncontrollable variables in this sport, anything you can do to control what can be controlled will improve your chance at success, however you may define it.

There are many parts to preparation. There is training, there is nutrition, there is equipment and there is strategy. However, I would argue that the most important type of preparation is mental preparation and to be more specific, visualization.

This is not to say that actual or physical preparation is not important. It is very important. But mental preparation and visualizations can be used to sharpen and fine-tune all the other elements of preparation including the physical side. So if your aim is for perfect physical preparation, you’ll need to do it all in your head first.

It’s not just your performance that you can visualize. You can visualize the meals that you will need to eat that day, you can visualize the perfect preparation of your equipment and you can even visualize your commute to the event. You can use visualization to improve every aspect of every moment leading up to the eventual and ultimate outcome that you are shooting for.

Concentration, visualization. NetApp-Endura warming up for the TTT at last year’s Vuelta

The Script
At the heart of mental preparation is the script.

A mental script is like a story you tell yourself where every aspect of every detail of the scenario in question goes perfectly. Very rarely will things actually be perfect on any given day but if you can at least see a perfect scenario in your mind’s eye then you may actually have a chance at achieving it.

On the flip side, if you can’t even imagine a perfect preparation then you will have absolutely no chance of achieving it.

So I’ve come up with a script for you to use that would prepare you for a number of types of events. You can make small changes to it so that it fits your particular situation. The more personalized you make it, the more effective it will be.

To use it, it’s as simple as reading through the script a couple of times and then closing your eyes and seeing each part of the story as if it was actually happening. Sometimes simply writing it down is enough to push it into your memory.

I like to start my scripts at the moment I awake the morning of the event. That first moment can set the tone for the rest of the day so it is vitally important that from the instant you gain consciousness you are confident, calm and in control.

Close your Eyes and Take a Breath
Take a deep breath. In through your nose, out through your mouth. As you breathe out, feel your body relax Close your eyes and…

See yourself waking up in the morning. You’ve had a great night sleep. One of the best ever. You feel rested and energized, excited to tackle the challenge of the day.

See yourself eating the perfect breakfast. You’ve put everything out the night before. All you have to do is dig in and consume the calories, knowing that if you follow the plan you will have the perfect amount of energy needed to achieve success.

See yourself riding or driving to the start of the event. You’ve given yourself plenty of time. You’ve worked out the route ahead of time. All you have to do is go through the motions, turn by turn, step by step.

See yourself getting to the event with plenty of time to spare.

See yourself warming up, feeling strong and confident. You go through all the paces of your pre-planned routine. You are not distracted by anything.

See yourself continuing to hydrate and fuel, knowing ahead of time exactly what gets consumed at exactly what point in the pre-event routine.

See yourself getting to the start line with a few minutes to spare. Everything is ready. Your equipment is dialed in. You are mentally ready to go. You are excited, confident.

See yourself waiting to start. Feel the nervous energy and adrenaline coursing through your body, knowing it will quickly be translated into performance energy once you leave the starting block.

See yourself starting off, riding conservatively, in control, careful not to go out too hard.

See yourself a few minutes in. Riding steadily, evenly, working hard but relaxed, letting all your energy go towards turning over the pedals.

See yourself working in synch with your bike. You and your sled working in harmony like one finely tuned machine.

See yourself farther in. Focused, in control. Your legs feeling like powerful jackhammers. You’re a machine, a robot. No pain, no fear, no doubt. Total self-confidence.

See yourself half way through. Lungs burning, legs burning, but still in control. Perfectly paced with enough in the reserves to attack the second half of the ride.

See yourself in the meat of the ride. Still confident, still strong, still completely focused. Even having fun!

See yourself over the last few minutes. Not losing any power. Not losing any speed. Just staying focused and steady. You’ve paced it perfectly.

See yourself hitting the final stretch. Not holding anything back. Digging deep all the way to the finish.

See yourself after the effort. Feeling tired but feeling good, knowing that you did the best you could do. Knowing that you have no regrets. That you’ve prepared the best you possibly could and gotten the result you knew you could get.

Totally fulfilled. Totally content. Totally prepared.

About Josh
Josh Horowitz is the host of Broken Bones Garage, a daily webcast featuring segments on training, sports psychology, nutrition and gritty stories from his days racing in the pro peloton.

You can follow him here on facebook or check out the Broken Bones Youtube channel for the latest episodes.

As a coach, Josh has trained national champions, world champions and Tour de France stage winners along with hundreds of amateur racers and recreational riders. His innovative articles on training, strategy, nutrition and sports psychology have appeared in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Bicycling Magazine and The Huffington Post.

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