This week's post brought to you by ALP Cycles Coach Jennifer Triplett Raise your hand if you spend more than five hours a week working on your physical fitness. Good. Now raise your hand if you spend more than five hours a week working on your mental fitness. Not as good? You’re not alone. In fact, you are part of the majority of athletes who overlook the mental aspect of training.
Yet mental training is key, if not critical, to successful performance. Your head needs to be in the right space to perform to your potential. Focusing on a couple of mental skills in the off-season can catapult you to the head of the peloton come race season. Below you will find a few tips on areas you can focus in order to achieve your goals.
Having an overall positive sense of self-confidence along with a realistic sense of your abilities and readiness can facilitate concentration, heighten effort, arouse positive emotions, and influence the setting of meaningful and challenging goals.*
What are your strengths as a bike racer? Where do you excel? What areas do you focus on in training? What areas do you need to work on? Taking stock of your strengths and weaknesses is a great starting point to discuss with your coach.
It can be hard to admit areas where you lack skill or maybe the opposite is true – you have a hard time admitting strength. Your self-confidence will show up on the bike and in life. Use your strengths to address your weaknesses to raise your confidence. In order to do this, use language that focuses on positive growth. Think positively and learn to reframe negative thoughts. Put affirming post-it notes around your house such as, “I am a great climber,” or “I can sprint!” Be honest and realistic with yourself and your commitment to training and your potential. Focus on performance goals rather than outcomes or results. It’s all about the journey.
The definition of expectation: a belief that someone will or should achieve something; or a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
What are your goals for 2015 and beyond? Are you aiming for the Olympics and just started racing? Or are you hoping to finish a race for the first time? Have you set up a clear path to get you there?
Goals and expectations are important to map out with your coach. Creating a clear plan with specific outcome and performance goals to check off along your journey will give you something to believe in as well as motivate you to stick with it. Coming up with a plan will also help you figure out your level of commitment so you can meet expectations you set along the way.
Why do you cycle? What gets you out of the bed each morning to train in the dark and cold? Why do you compete?
Knowing the answers to these questions can help you and your coach understand why you compete. If a coach knows why you want to perform, they can tailor a training plan to suit your needs. Regardless if you are internally or externally motivated, it’s important to remember that cycling is a process and you should enjoy it. Make sure your coach is including you in the decision making of training and provides options for your training. Ask for a variety of training options to keep things fresh.
These topics are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mental training skills. If interested, check out “Thinking Body, Dancing Mind.” I am a big advocate of training the mind and look forward to sharing more on this topic with you in the future. And if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!
(*Kristen Dieffenbach, PhD’s Sport Psychology chapter from USA Cycling Introduction to BMX Coaching, 2012.)