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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tell the truth: How much do you want it? Desire is rocket fuel for your cycling experiences. It can get you over fear. It can give you access to your deepest sources of energy, strength, and power. It can make the difference between missing out and getting the most from your cycling – and yourself. The mentally fit cyclist knows how to tap into every possible ounce of desire in reaching for goals, growth, and fun on 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.
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.
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.