Mental aspects of performance

We recently published an article by Dr. Cheung (@ThermalDoc) highlighting various methods of feedback (or not getting feedback) and how these affect our ability to perform.

What are some tricks you use to find your peak performances?

One of my points that I focus on includes finding a point in the workout/ride/race, no matter how hard I’m going, where I can smile and really enjoy what is happening at that point. I’ve never had a bad workout or race when that happens. And it takes my mind off the computer/numbers and allows me to ride by feel.

Coach Ryan

I’ve got a general “rule” to wave or at least smile at everyone I see, gets me out of myself and changes my mood most of the time. I started doing that after watching Natasha Badman win Ironman’s while smiling almost the whole time.

To go internal I’ll use some box breathing techniques. In 2, hold 2, out 2 or whatever count I can sustain for intensity. It will lower HR and increase HRV fairly consistently. Figured it out doing meditation with the chest strap on and gave it a shot on the bike.

If it’s really hard I’ll do a mantra with the breath - (In) Arising, Abiding, (Out) Changing, Ceasing. Like all things, the pain and suffering is temporary and will change and then stop. This mile might be hard and the next mile could feel good. That happens all the time, so refocusing on the impermanence and transient nature of the suffering helps.

If all else fails, it becomes an exercise in gratitude and perspective. How many people can’t ride a bike for whatever reason, so even my worst ride is something than someone somewhere would wish they could do. My 80 year old self will one day wish he could do what my 42 year old self can do today too.

What Doug says, especially the gratitude part. I have the opportunity and honor to be able to ride a bike. Not everyone that wants to can.

No one is forcing my to do this. I choose to ride if only for enjoyment, the feel of the wind in my face, mental health, etc. If I am not having fun (even type 2 fun), enjoying the growth process (physical or mental), or experience (outside on a beautiful day), why am I riding? There’s something better I could be doing. I sound like I’ve been listening to Cycling in Alignment too much. Colby has some very philosophical musings.

All that being said, the competitor in me wants to push my body to see what I’m capable of. Beating others occasionally is nice too! Apparently, I’m a complex person.

What’s the best exercise? Whatever you’re willing to do! Sure beats being a couch potato, although there is a time for that too!

1 Like

@Schils and @douglashilbert great points! The gratitude suggestion is huge. I’ve made that a point with a number of athletes over the years too. Especially juniors as they tend to take their 12 pound carbon-everything bike and abilities for granted, so it’s always good to try and keep them a little grounded.

I’ll never forget one of the ProXCT events in Bonelli, CA from a number of years ago. I was watching the start of the men’s race, and it was a pretty big turnout because Nino Schurter was there that year. The coolest thing was when about 5 seconds before the start I saw him crack this smile. Everyone else was completely tense and had their game faces on. But you knew he was there to do what he loves doing, and it showed.

Coach Ryan

Cool story about Nino! You can’t be that good without loving it!

When I did road racing I used to get so nervous and stressed before races. Will I get dropped? Will I crash? Will I be injured? Despite being one of the stronger racers in my area by the numbers I very rarely performed well in races. Funnily, I almost never have nerves before ‘cross races and I am able to go to the start with a smile on my face no matter the conditions (perhaps even moreso when the conditions are horrible). And I am consistently able to perform well in those races.

My personal technique for staying relaxed is focusing on the tension in my jaw. During races or hard training I will let my jaw hang slack. When negotiating tricky technical features or sneaking around other racers I usually whistle a little tune. You can’t whistle when you’re tense. It’s weird but it helps me relax and focus.

1 Like