Words by Kristen Phillips
If you’re a cyclist focused on improving your skills and abilities, it’s important to set goals that challenge you. Without them, it's hard to progress in meaningful ways. Cycling is a sport that stretches us mentally and physically and can take us to exciting new places within ourselves. This can happen by racing, participating in organized events, and by traveling to ride your bike in new places. If you’re working towards a goal that scares you a little bit, congratulations! You’re halfway there. The second part happens when you get through the experience and reflect on what you learned.
With any challenge can come adrenaline and excitement along with pressure and stress. Here are three simple things you can do to handle that pressure like a pro as the big day draws closer.
Notice how you talk to yourself.
Most of us are guilty of comparing ourselves to others when we're stretching ourselves to meet new standards (often not in flattering ways). Fixating on what's wrong or not working never brings the results you want. I’ve been in many races where I thought I didn’t have a chance but stuck it out and ended up having a great result. I've also been on trips that seemed destined to end in disaster, only to be proven wrong. We need to learn to save the energy we lose by worrying because "it’s not over ‘til it's over” is definitely true for cycling. We need a positive outlook and a strategy for being our best selves. Simply noticing how we think and talk to ourselves on and off the bike is a great place to start.
Avoid making last-minute changes.
I’ve adhered to this rule so much in my cycling life it borders on superstition and it has helped me avoid a lot of pitfalls. It's all about establishing rituals and routine that eliminate variables from the equation. Once you know exactly what pressure to run your tires at, don't change it randomly before an event. Once you know the best pre-ride or pre-race breakfast for your digestive system, plan to have that before your more important days on the bike. Remember that the body and mind of an athlete thrives on consistency and routine. Set yourself up for success by sticking to what you know works for you when pre-event pressure starts to heat up and you'll feel more prepared for the challenges to come.
Visualize what you want.
Another great strategy for feeling prepared and confident is to spend time visualizing the outcome you want. Visualizing is a powerful form of positive thinking and a productive way to re-frame self-defeating behavior. This can be a formal exercise, like meditation, or something you do right before falling asleep. Spend time seeing yourself feeling cool, calm, and collected in the key moments leading up to an event. See everything you do down to the last details. Then, see yourself riding like a rock star on the hardest part of the course, cheered on by everyone. The more clearly you can see these things in your mind's eye and tap into what it feels like in your body, the closer you come to making it a reality.