Words by Kristen Phillips
Good coaches create a supportive environment for learning. Art of Cycling maintains that in order for performance-based (competitive) cyclists to truly thrive in this sport, they need to stay inspired. Inspiration is key to motivation, and motivation is how we keep up with the demands of training. By learning more about who you are as a cyclist, your goals can better align with what you want from the sport and help keep you focused when the going gets tough. An inspired athlete is an unstoppable athlete.
A smart training program should be structured in a way that brings about clarity and poise on event day. There are two sides to this coin. A periodized training program to prepare the body is one side, and self-reflection to order the mind is the other. Self-reflection uses past performance to inform future mindsets and actions. The following outlines a simple process that can be done on your own (or with someone you trust) as a way to set personal goals that keep you inspired through the year.
Step 1: Schedule the time
Cyclists are busy, and making the time can be a challenging first step. Plan in advance so you’re able to eliminate distractions. Give yourself time and space to think, write, and express yourself. After a ride is a good time because your body and mind will be settled. Make sure you have access to any previous or current written goals, your training log, a notepad, and a good writing pen.
Step 2: Ask questions
Now that you’ve created the space, it’s time to get to work. Ask “how” questions to get solution-orientated answers based on the goals you’ve set for yourself. Some examples: How can I be more focused or consistent as an athlete? How can I take better care of myself? How do I want to feel on event day? How can I better support my own efforts? How can I improve my diet and sleep patterns?
Step 3: Think about your questions
Spend some time reflecting on your questions and refine them if needed before moving to the next step. Choose the ones that compel you the most, even if they're tough. This is the point where being honest with yourself is most important because this is when the learning happens. Remember this exercise is only for you. The questions you ask should dive deep into the improvements you'd most like to make.
Step 4: Write about it
With your questions as the framework, it’s time to write. I typically advise stream-of-consciousness writing which means writing free flow anything that comes to mind without interruption. Don’t censor yourself and stay on topic so you don’t become overwhelmed. There are no wrong answers. This is the time for complete and total freedom in your expression. Enjoy and let yourself go.
Step 5: Review what you wrote
This step is usually best done the next day so you can see your answers with a fresh perspective. You can choose to make changes to your training and lifestyle then and there, or use this process to add to your body of self-knowledge. There are no rules other than to help deepen your relationship with the sport you love. The process itself is what creates the environment for learning.
Those are the basic steps for starting your own self-reflection practice that can be modified as you see fit. It can become a powerful part of your training, and a way to keep tabs on yourself as you navigate the high-pressure environments of training and racing (and life itself). Staying motivated is all about keeping cycling relevant and meaningful to your life, and this is one way to do it.