Over the past few months, my pursuit of speed has seen a complete shift in my focus. I no longer do regular FTP tests, or look to build strength. Instead I’ve found a battle that few tackle head on, the mind games of cycling. We’ve all played them, whether its digging deeper than you’ve ever dug before to finish a massive climb, or pysc’d yourself into defend. Cycling is as much a physical sport as a mental sport.
My desire to improve my cycling continues. But these days I see myself testing my mental state and strength. Like attempting 30 intervals of something I’d usually only do 10 of. Or pushing my FTP for 30 mintes.
It’s all about mind over mater. In the book ‘How Bad Do You Want It?‘ author Matt Fitzgerald tells the inspirational story of a young Frenchman Thomas Voeckler sprung into the Yellow Jersey during 2004’s Tour de France. Just having the jersey on his back, which was a surprise to everyone including himself, was motivation enough for his mind to push his body harder and faster than he’d ever gone.
Most cyclists initially focus on the physical training, developing strength, dropping weight, or training for speed or power. But there comes a point where all that is for nothing if you don’t learn how to use it. This is where the mental skills come in. You should learn to use your fitness you’ve worked hard for in effective, efficient and impactful ways.
Here are the mental skills that you need to master:
- Concentration. During your ride, you have to be able to focus and stay focused. Whenever we cycle, there will always be something to distract us. Whether it’s external like cars, competitors, or scenery, or internal ones like the worry of an upcoming race, these distractions should be kept at bay. Train your mind to focus, stay focused and find bliss moving forward.
- Motivation. What is your motivation as a cyclist? What do you want to achieve? Do you have a meaningful goal that can help you get through all of your trainings and rides? Identify what your motivation for riding is and it will be easier for you to keep on pedaling.
- Mastering pain and fatigue. You should learn how to control your focus when you begin to hurt. Pain is a huge distraction, and most of the time, it makes you want to quit. Keep in mind that there will be a lot of uncomfortable rides and training, and prepare yourself for these. Remind yourself of your goals to help you get through the pain and fatigue.
- Self-confidence. This may be the most important mental skill of all. Believe in yourself. Believe that you can achieve your goal, one step at a time. Whenever you hit a roadblock, remind yourself of what you want to accomplish and how far you’ve come along. This confidence will help keep your focus to continue riding on.
How about you? Are you mentally prepared to ride? Can you tap into the power of your mind to push your body harder, further and higher?