Written by ALP Coach, Jennifer Sharp

When you first start mental training, your tool box starts small.

When you first start mental training, your tool box starts small.

It’s Tuesday night in early January and I’m in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center Velodrome getting ready to do some motor pacing. The velodrome has a bubble over it - making year round riding possible and offers a variety of programs to track cyclists.

It’s easier to suffer with friends so I made the 100 mile trek south from Boulder, pumped up my track tires and slapped on a large gear to sit behind a motor for three 20 minute sessions. The first session is a warmup and there’s a mix of riders - from first timers to older timers and everything in between. The motor provides a steady, consistent draft that allows the group to go much faster than it would on its own for longer. It’s a great way to get in some quality training and work on your handling skills not to mention staying out of the elements.


Over time, your mental tool box will grow as you use various mental tools.

Over time, your mental tool box will grow as you use various mental tools.

Sitting behind the motor itself is soothing and calming - it’s getting to that point that can be the challenge. If there’s someone in front of you that’s tense and surging, it will ripple throughout the group. Similar to riding in a group on the road - if you find yourself around someone who is moving erratically and unpredictability, it’s only a matter of time before something disastrous happens. The best thing to do is to put some distance between yourself and that rider.

During the last 20 minute points race simulation, I started to suffer. At one point I was so fixated on the wheel in front of me that I couldn’t tell which side of the track we were on. All I could do was continue to stick as close to the wheel in front of me as possible. Maybe that sounds like some group rides you’ve been on recently?

The laps counted down, with sprints every 10. With an increased pace, I knew that going for a sprint would prove suicidal. So I sat in the pace line and started to bargain with myself: just 5 more laps. Then once I’d get through those 5 laps: just 5 more. You can do five more. I knew that breaking down the suffering into smaller, manageable chunks would help me stick in just a little bit longer. It’s when I saw six to go and knew my engine had been red lined for a while that I pulled the plug and came off the pace.

Was I discouraged? A little. But rather than dwell on my performance, I took the time to notice what happened… I had partly let my head dictate my performance. When I started to hurt, I gave into the hurt and decided I didn’t want to push any more. Later that night, I listened to an interesting Headspace session on training that talks about noticing when we’re thinking or when we actually feel something in our bodies and how it’s important to be able to distinguish between the two.

So I encourage you to notice during your next training session to see if you can recognize when you let your head take over or when you tune into the sensations in your body. And when things start to “hurt” see if you can just notice it and not assign a label to it. "Well, isn’t that interesting my legs feel like 1,000 pounds?” And then keep pushing. I think Jens Voigt said it best, “SHUT UP LEGS.”


Having the right mental tool for the job changes over time. Being able to collect and store various mental tools is important throughout your cycling career.

Having the right mental tool for the job changes over time. Being able to collect and store various mental tools is important throughout your cycling career.




Comment