Written by ALP Cycles Coach, Jennifer Sharp
Shhhhhh…. Don’t tell anyone new to the sport but cycling is based on suffering. A lot of suffering. You have to push your body to the extreme to overcome gravity, inertia, strong winds, and at time physical ailments just in order to cross the finish line. It can be painful, gut wrenching, exhilarating and 100% satisfying.
When I first started racing back in 2004, I stumbled upon CyclingNews mental tool box. I was fascinated with how the mind worked and how something as simple as changing your perspective toward any obstacle could make a huge difference and decrease your suffering.
By decrease your suffering, you can increase your joy of the experience.
So how do you do that? Here are my top three mental tools that I find myself going to over and over again.
1. USE POSITIVE SELF TALK. The voices in our head can make or break you. Cycling is hard enough. If you don’t make the break, can’t keep up with the group, or hit a certain power threshold, then it’s really easy to let the negative voices creep into your head and take over. It takes a conscious choice to break the pattern and snap out of that funk and focus on the positive. Olympic Training Center sport psychologist Diana McNabb once shared with me her rubber band trick: put a rubber band around one of your wrists. If you find yourself traveling down a path of self-doubt and negativity – snap that rubber band and tell yourself, you CAN do it. The act of snapping the rubber band can break the pattern of negativity and work like a charm.
2. KEEP PUSHING. Say you’re climbing a hill and it just keeps going and going and going. You’re pushing your body to the limit – your heart rate is through the roof, your muscles are screaming at you and you know you could just pull over and the pain would quickly stop. This is where you really have to fight the urge to back off. Acknowledge the pain. Tell yourself that you know it hurts, but you’re going to keep pushing to the next tree. And once you get there, you keep pushing to the tree after that and the tree after that. Each time you push your body that much further, you build confidence that you can go further even when everything hurts. Our minds are often the biggest limiter.
3. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE PEOPLE. This applies to all faucets of life. If you want to focus on positivity and growth, then finding positive like-minded people can make a huge difference. They’re your support system and cheerleaders. These are the people who make mistakes, learn from them and can laugh about it later.
Have a tool that you use you’d like to share? Please add a comment below.