If you’ve spent all winter putting in the miles and doing the gym work, come summer you’ll just need a few extra touches to boost your performance. These touches don’t require you to get out on your bike, and they require you to delve into your mind.
Your body can be as best prepared as it is possible to be, but without making sure your head can deal with the pressure and stress of race day, you might not get as great a result as you deserve. Fine-tuning your mental preparedness can take you that extra mile, sadly just winging it will not work for most of us.
Split everything into smaller sections
Everything becomes easier if you split it down into manageable sections. You can do this for the race route and for your preparations. You’ll then not feel as intimidated by getting things down, and more importantly, you’ll quickly feel accomplished.
You can reach for the stars but break it down into baby steps, and you’ll get there, it might be slower, but it’ll work. Each step forward will give you the dopamine boost to help you complete the next section. You won’t then just give up as your goal is too far away, you’ll keep getting closer.
For preparing for the race, you can set the goal of servicing your race bike a week before the race, you then have time to fix your bike if there is an issue. You can pack the night before a race, and you’ll then be able to find any missing items of kit.
For the race break down the race into sections Have a goal for these sections, write them down and if possible tape them to your bike. Each time you achieve a goal, you’ll push yourself onwards. You’ll also find it easier to achieve these goals if they are realistic and in small enough sections to allow you to conquer them easily.
Listen to your body
We get that at times you’ll not want to pay attention to your body as you push it to the limits. Distracting yourself from the pain can be, and is a good strategy for some endurance sports. On the bike though if you completely check yourself out, then you might end up having a crash.
Set points in your race plan to check in on how you feel. Are you sitting in the correct position, how are your legs, how do you feel, are you taking on enough fluid? You can ask all these questions of yourself, and by being aware, you should be able to sort any issues quickly, and your performance should naturally improve.
Think of it as doing a body M-check. Get in the habit of starting at your feet and slowly working your way up your body. It may sound abstract, but it’ll make more sense when you’re out riding and will allow you to quickly and easily spot any problems. If you practice this on training rides, you’ll get much better at it and find it easier to identify issues.
Change the radio station
We all have an inner monologue. It will be running through our heads as we race. We don’t want to get caught up on a negative station. We need to try and change our head’s so that we get positive messages of encouragement. Staying in negative stations will bring a change in our motivation and can ruin our chances in a race.
What you need to do is try and have a helpful self-chat with yourself. You’ll never be totally able to beat the negative thoughts but the more positive inspiration you have, the better. You’ll find that you become more attentive, feel more in control, and it will take longer for you to become exhausted if you can engage in some positive self-talk.
You want to try and turn yourself into a coach. So one side of the conversation in your head is pushing you on and giving you the motivation you need to complete your goals. It is a great skill to be able to do this, for it to work you’ll need to some self-reflection.
Take the time to analyse your previous races, or hard training rides, and work out where you had the most problems. Figure out what a coach would say to help you through these sections, and gain a good mental space. You want to make this advice on what you need to do, and not what you don’t need to do.
Turn it into a small sentence. Repeat this sentence to yourself during a race, as a form of a mantra; you’ll then find that you made it through the section easily. It might seem strange to become your internal coach, but at the end of the day, you should know yourself better than anyone else ever could.