Get Out of Your Head!

Break these four destructive mental habits to ride faster – and happier.


Selene Yeager |

Break these four destructive mental habits to ride faster – and happier. – By Selene Yeager

Image by Tim Solliday
Image by Tim Solliday

1. YOU WORRY AWAY YOUR WATTS

Obsessing about what might go wrong before a hard ride is literally a waste of energy: Your brain gobbles 120 grams of glucose daily – a whopping 60% of your body’s usage – just sitting there. Even mild acute stress can send this up by 12%. Mental fatigue makes you wear out faster physically, too.

BREAK IT} Keep your mind occupied with a pre-ride routine. Checking off tasks like pumping tyres and filling bottles can prevent you from imagining the worst.

2. YOU TALK TRASH… ABOUT YOURSELF

Even just thinking things like I suck at hills or I’m so slow can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, says Dr Kristin E. Keim, a sports psychologist in Raleigh, North Carolina.

BREAK IT} In a recent study at the University of Kent in the UK, cyclists extended their time to exhaustion by 18% while riding at 80% of their peak power output by indulging in positive self-talk. Keim suggests upbeat mantras like “I’ve got this” and “Breath deep, pedal smooth” instead of self-defeating downers.

3. YOU LET YOUR BODY HAVE ALL THE SAY

That burning and aching is your muscles saying, “Hey, this is hard!” Too many of us let our brains join the chorus – and then we slow down.

BREAK IT} Tell your legs to pipe down, because “this is what it feels like to go fast,” says US Olympic Committee sports psychologist Sean McCann. Then keep pushing hard. You’ll be surprised by how long you can carry on with the burn. Sometimes it even disappears.

4. YOU HAVE NO SCRIPT

You’ve put in the training, but your only mental game plan is to wing it through your event.

BREAK IT} Research shows that people who rehearse upcoming actions in their minds perform better even if they don’t physically practise them. Script your perfect performance from beginning to end: what you’ll do when you get to the venue, how you’ll charge off the line, how you’ll react (calmly) if something goes wrong. Visualise it until your execution becomes automatic.

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