Cycling is a sport that commands a lot of commitment to perform at a high level. The hours required to really lift the endurance capacity required for long distance events like XCM and MTB stage races dwarfs the training requirements for many other sports. Subsequently, a lot of motivation is required by the participant to commit to perform at a particular event. Fuelling motivation at a physical and mental level can be a bit of a roller coaster. Team rider Justin Morris of Mind Matters Athlete Coaching believes much of this motivation lies in 5 domains that uncannily all begin with the letter P!
Without a passion for the sport, much of the following will fail to eventuate. Those that have achieved big results in any cycling discipline all have one thing in common: They all genuinely LOVE the sport. They enjoy riding their bike. This passion/ joy can arise for different reasons for different people but some ways of keeping the passion alive include:
- Incorporate a ride that you find enjoyable regularly into your training. If the home trainer is doing your head in, park the thing and head outside on one of your favourite loops. There is ALWAYS flexibility in training to sustain passion (to an extent).
- Don’t sacrifice all your social rides for the sake of ‘training’. Sometimes it may be necessary to go solo to hit some specific efforts but often training with others is actually a benefit both physically for speed development and tactics and emotionally for the dopamine lift experienced in socialising.
Austrian psychology pioneer and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl once said “Those whom have a WHY to live can bear almost any HOW”. Obviously training for a bicycle race is a far less traumatic experience than what Frankl would have experienced. The methodology can be applied to anything that poses a challenge in life however. If your WHY for competing at a bike race is only skin deep, then the drive to push through the inevitable difficulties in preparation will be harder to muster.
- Remind yourself of WHY you pursued bike racing in the first place. The feeling of joy/ freedom experienced as a kid? To improve fitness? To inspire your kids? Tapping into this often elicits some more motivation.
- Often the greatest performance is generated when it is devoted to something outside of/ greater than oneself.
Good things come to those who are patient. There is unfortunately no silver bullet to performance in endurance sports. Training data will not transform you overnight and a coach is not a magician. Sustainable improvement will take time. Often very sharp/ quick improvements (weeks/ months) can be counter productive to a long and healthy relationship with your sport. ‘Keep chipping away’ is a phrase often used in the competitive domains of cycling.
- Pay attention to and celebrate the seemingly small gains; this might be clearing a technical climb for the first time or achieving a smoother pedal stroke.
- Focus on skills/ form foundations early in event preparation. A little early can go a long way later.
- Set micro goals on your journey.
Like a good buddhist monk, the more ‘in the moment’ we are, the more we can get out of the experience. This is especially true for mountain biking where every moment can require a different movement/ skill in order to stay upright. Stressing about the mortgage/ world events/ uni assignments etc. whilst on the bike does not help the thing we are worrying about at all and definitely holds you back from getting the most from your cycling.
There are some techniques that can help sustain ‘presence on the pedals’:
- Counting pedal strokes.
- Single track mountain biking.
- Get a skills coaching session which will give you something to focus on in nearly every situation cycling throws at you.
It is easy to get carried away with the importance of our own performance. However, reminding yourself that this is after all, ‘just a bicycle ride with some like minded people and the fastest one gets a prize’. Nerves before a race can be productive generating more energy but stress on the other hand, sucks energy out of your brain and body so keeping the importance of the challenge ahead in perspective can help keep a lid on that stress factor. Also, the degree of difficulty of a challenge in cycling training is often minuscule when compared to other things in life you as a person have already overcome (think; childbirth, tertiary degree, school, raising a family, etc..). The pain from a race or training session will be very temporary!
- Check yourself before you wreck yourself.
- Nerves are normal, accept the nerves try to keep the stress in check.
- Deep breathing techniques on the start line.
I hope these few little tips can help you prepare for your next event. Remember, at the end of the day we are lucky to have these two wheeled machines and the fun they can bring into our lives!