Periodization For the Mind 2: Positivity
Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki says, “What we call ‘I’ is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no ‘I’, no world, no mind nor body, just a swinging door.”
“The mastery of all things including winning is brought about by a trinity of mind and body connection combined with a focus and blinding passion. The trinity of success is no big secret it simply requires effort and persistent determination. The trinity is a combination of correct thought, burning passion and dedicated effort. Without that formula both mastered and enacted you will only ever attain better than average. If you live by the rule of the trinity you can and you will attain greatness in any endeavor you put your mind to. Everything that happens in the entire material world and everything created within it is only an exteriorization of thought combined with effort to achieve the desired result. It’s so simple it’s almost ridiculous but it’s true.”
In the last article we got as far as breathing and relaxation, two of the most basic and key elements to improving mental performance. If you have been doing the breathing exercises prescribed in article one on a regular basis, you might have noticed a slight shift in your ability to remain calm and focused. You may have noticed other things such as increase clarity and alertness.
You also may have noticed nothing but an inability to sit still and what the call “monkey mind” jumping from one thought to another! This is all fine. There is no correct or incorrect response and if you are not achieving a desired result, it doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong. As the Zen philosophy (and Yoda) states, there is no wrong or right, just doing. The important thing is to go through the motions and do the breathing for 10 to 20 minutes a day even if you notice no changes at all.
River of Inner Thoughts
Assuming you have put the work into Phase I of the program, it is now time to move to the next step. If you have not been doing the breathing, go back, spend a couple weeks working on the exercises and then continue with the program.
Now, I want you to start becoming very aware of your inner dialogue. This is a running line of thought that, whether you are aware of it or not, is always flowing through your head influencing the way you feel, thus influencing the way you think about yourself and ultimately resulting in changing the way you behave and what you achieve and accomplish. Most people have a mixture of positive and negative self-thoughts. We are looking to root out the negative ones.
The tricky thing here is that these thoughts have become so entrenched in your subconscious that it is very hard to distinguish between what is actually a fact and what is just a thought that has manifested into a truth. An easy way to sort this out is to go on the assumption that ALL things that we know about ourselves started as thoughts and only when we came to believe them did they become truths. The human brain is very susceptible to repetition and if you say something enough times, you come to believe it. What we will do in this lesson is learn how to use this basic human weakness to our advantage.
Turning the Negativity Boat Around
As an example, in the past I had a tendency to concern myself with crashing way too much. I’ve had a couple bad crashes and somewhere along the line I managed to identify myself as a “crasher”. When I started to think of myself as someone who crashes a lot, then take one guess as to what happens next. I crash more. It’s a vicious cycle and by the time you get too far into it, it is impossible to perceive the crashing as anything but a true trait or weakness you might have as a bicycle racer. However, when you trace it back to the very beginning you realize that it all started as a thought that after millions of repetitions in my head became a truth.
So, if repeating a negative thought can translate it into truth, repeating a positive one can also translate into truth. Your assignment for this month is to first identify 5 to 10 negative thoughts you have on a daily basis. Things like, “I always get dropped on the hills”, “I’m a terrible climber”, “I can’t descend to save my life.” Although it may be hard to believe, these things are only true because you believe them to be true and the only way to reverse them is by creating mantras or positive affirmations designed to overpower them with more positive beliefs.
For myself, I realized the source of my crashing was a lack of confidence and anxiety during race situations. I created the following positive mantra to counteract my belief. “I am relaxed, focused and powerful whenever I race my bike.” The next step is to begin to repeat your mantra out to yourself. The more you say your mantra out loud and with conviction, the more of an effect it will have on you.
There are several ideal situations for doing your positive affirmations. One is while looking at yourself in the mirror, the other is during one of your deep breathing sessions. However, I’ve found the most effective to be while out on a long ride by yourself. What other time during the day do you have an almost limitless amount of time to talk to yourself? Plus, because for many of us, cycling puts us into an almost meditative, highly aware, trance like state, the subconscious mind is more accessible and thus more likely to take in the positive suggestions. Sometimes I’ll repeat my mantra out loud for the first 30 minutes of a 4 hr ride, but find the words still repeating themselves over and over in my head hours later.
So the assignment is this.
1) Identify 5 negative self thoughts or perceptions about your riding.
2) Create a positive version of this thought, i.e. “I’m a terrible climber” vs. “I’m a strong and experienced climber.” Try not to make the positive affirmation too outrageous so you don’t believe it, but don’t be afraid to stretch what you believe might be the truth,
3) Repeat your mantra out loud and with conviction for at least 10 minutes a day either while looking in the mirror, while doing your deep breathing exercise or while riding your bike.
4) Continue doing 10 minutes a day of deep breathing.
5) Stay Relaxed!
Josh Horowitz is a USCF Certified coach and an active Category 1 racer. For more information about his coaching services check out contact [email protected] or check out his website at