Let’s talk about self sabotage. 

Do you understand how your mental game is hindering your training and races? The attitudes, beliefs, and mindsets that runners, cyclists, triathletes and endurance athletes take into a race dictate their performance success. Every one of us is capable of undermining our own goals because we all have an inherent inclination to self-sabotage. Self sabotage can show up in all sorts of ways – in our life as well as in our sport.

It is any behaviour or thought pattern that limits you, that puts the brakes on, that stops your self belief in its tracks and therefore restricts your growth and progress. 

It can be insidious – you often might not even be aware of it. It can be an ingrained habit you’ve had for years. 

It isn’t always a voice saying ‘you can’t do this’. You might not think you are ever sabotaging yourself but see if any of these sound familiar to you:

🤔 Feeling undeserving/self doubt

🤔 Perfectionist – over-controlling

🤔 Superhero – trying to do it all

🤔 Independent – fear of asking for help

🤔 Expert/rigidity- thinking you know best and not open to new ideas. 

🤔 Certainty – staying in your comfort zone where it’s safe

🤔 Fear of failure – lacking confidence to tackle challenges. 

🤔 High expectations – placing your bar too high, causing anxiety about outcomes

🤔 Blame game – pinning the fault on other people or circumstances

🤔 Never taking action – when your mind thinks about it a lot but you DO nothing

🤔 Unable to manage race day emotions

🤔 Worrying about what others think/social pressure – always chasing ‘kudos’

If you’re nodding to any of these things and want to learn some effective tools to sort it out, then drop me a line. I’d be happy to help. Don’t let your mind get in your way 😊

🎬 Mental rehearsal 🎬

Mental rehearsal is the ability to practise a process or activity in our minds. It’s a great way to strengthen or improve our behavioural performance – race day, job interview, asking the girl out on a date – anything!

It’s great way to: 

✅ control nerves

✅ learn from a previous performance

✅ increase energy, motivation and confidence

✅ practise skills 

✅ Deal with negative memories 

🚴🏽‍♂️ Sporting champions have usually won competitions many times in their heads before an event even starts. They have seen themselves doing what they need to do to win, they’ve heard the sounds involved in the process and felt all the feelings concerned so that by the time the event comes around they are confident of success.

⛷ Research has shown that when we mentally rehearse a skill we actually fire off the same neurology as if we were actually carrying out the experience. At Colorado State University, Olympic athletes used a method called visio-motor behaviour rehearsal (VMBR). Athletes had electromyographic reading on the legs of skiers who were imagining performing a downhill race. What the researchers found was that the electronic patterns in the muscles were the same as those that would have resulted if they were actually skiing.

So as well as helping confidence and belief, mental rehearsal is also able to create neurophysiological blueprints for your sport performance .

  • ➡️  HOW TO DO IT

Mental rehearsal involves using internal representations – through pictures, sounds and feelings. You will probably find you prefer one of these systems more than the others but the more you can engage all systems the more effective the rehearsal will be. (If you need help developing your visual, auditory or kinaesthetic (feeling) systems message me and I’ll send you some tips).

  1. Watch or think of a sportsperson who performs a particular skill well who you would like to model.
  1. Take some time to get relaxed. It’s more effective when you are relaxed. Remember you are creating a blueprint for your muscles so if you are tense when you rehearse it that tension will be part of the skill 😱. Relaxation also enables the brain to work in ‘alpha wave’ state when it is more receptive to suggestion (if you need help with relaxation skills message me).
  2. Close your eyes and imagine the person with the skill you want to acquire. Get an impression of their body language, where their focus is, the ease of their performance, the skill, the tempo. Notice any sounds that are important. Imagine them performing it several times.
  3. Now imagine putting your own head on the body of that person. Watch yourself performing the skill with the same body language, ease and tempo.
  4. Now imagine the same thing with your own body. Do it several times util you are happy that it looks good, sounds and feels good to you.
  5. Now ‘associate’ into the body and see and hear it as if you are experiencing it in the moment. You can feel the feelings of performing the skill. Enjoy the difference in how your body feels now how you feel at ease performing the skill, feel the temp and notice how good it makes you feel.

👉🏼👉🏼👉🏼 KEY THINGS TO REMEMBER

To get the greatest benefit from mental rehearsal follow these principles:

  • ➡️ Start from your outcome. Imagine the time when you achieve the results. Notice all the details so you can be sure of what you need to do.
  • ➡️ Focus on the process not the results. See, feel, hear how you achieve the outcome rather than rehearsing the result. The outcome should be the last step of the rehearsal and should come about naturally as a result of following the process.
  • ➡️ Be specific. Get into the detail; set the scene; imagine who will be there, what you are wearing, what equipment you will have, everything!
  • ➡️ Make it exactly what you want. Whatever you see, feel and hear is the outcome you will get so if what you are experiencing isn’t exactly what you want, change it until it is.
  • ➡️ Use all the senses. The more multi-sensory your rehearsal is the more it is going to imprint in your mind. Make the images vivid, the sounds clear and the feeling strong. Bring in taste and smell if you can!
  • ➡️ Relax (see point 2 above)
  • ➡️ Practise! Mental rehearsal is a skill so the more you use it the better you will get and the more likely you are to achieve the outcomes you desire.

Go ahead and practise mental rehearsal with something this week. Let me know how it goes. 😊

Any questions, just ask!

We all have an inner voice, but how we use it makes a big difference to how we feel and behave.

Positive self-talk can cultivate healthier mindsets and make you more successful in life and sport. Negative self talk can undermine our confidence, derail our goals and impact on all areas of our lives and wellbeing.

Tiger Woods never says: “I hope I don’t hit my next golf ball into the woods.” 

Venus Williams never says: “I don’t think I’m very good at tennis.”

Yet how many of us talk to ourselves like this:

  • I know it won’t work.
  • It’s just no use.
  • I never have enough time.
  • I never know what to say.
  • Everything I touch turns to crap.
  • It’s just how I am

The sporting champions certainly have fears and doubts, like every other normal human being. The difference between them and other successful people is they don’t listen to their fears and doubts – they replace them with positive self-talk.    

Positive self-talk is a habit you have to develop, just as much as negative self-talk is a habit you have to stop. Give yourself permission to be successful, starting now, and use positive self-talk to help predict a positive outcome.

🎯 10 TOP TIPS TO MANAGE THE MIND CHATTER

Here are a few ways you can manage your internal monologue. Practise them and find out which techniques work best for you and use them daily until it’s changed your inner voice.

1. ➡️ Watch for the self-talk statements about yourself.

The first step is to pay attention to your self-talk and identify anything that is negative. Chances are it’s an ingrained habit and you won’t be able to change your negative self-talk without noticing it first.

2.  ➡️ Monitor the self-talk of people around you.

Sometimes it is easier to see the impact of negative self-talk by noticing its effect on other people. Obviously, you won’t be able to listen in on their inner self-talk, but people often speak their self-talk out loud: ‘I’m just not good at those sorts of things,” “I haven’t got time to deal with that,” “I’ve always wanted to do that, but I just don’t have what it takes.” How does their self-talk limit them? Do they stop doing things they want to do? Do they avoid new behaviours that might be helpful or just plain fun? Can you see that you do similar things?

3. ➡️ Stop it in its tracks. 

Once you’ve learned to notice your negative self-talk, you can work on actively resisting it when it occurs. Set up an internal signal, such as a command like “Cancel!” or “change!” which tells you to stop the negative self-talk.

4. ➡️ Challenge it

Use questions to challenge it whatever the belief is. For example, ‘Who says that’s true?’ ‘How do I know that’s true?’ ‘What do I mean by that?’ ‘Where/when/who specifically? ‘What would happen if I could? 

(These are what in NLP, we call meta model questions – helping you get more specific and in this scenario they will start to plant seeds of doubt).

5. ➡️ Changes the tense. 

Take what you are saying in your head, then reword it so that it’s in the past. Use a new positive phrase in the present tense as if the change has already taken place.  

6. ➡️ Put it in the third person

 Rather than “I’m a failure” – change it to “she is a failure” – this just puts some distance between you and the comment you are making. Similarly use third person for positive statements: ‘Come on Brian, you’ve got this’.

7. ➡️ Insert a ‘but’  or a ‘yet’.

Putting a ‘but’ in a statement, cancels out what came before it and focuses the mind on what comes after it – e.g. I’m such as mess, but I’m a great person. You can do the same with ‘yet’. “I just can’t do this’ becomes “I just can’t do this yet”. It sends the message to your brain that you will be able to do it in the future.

8. ➡️ Mess around with the sound of the voice

  • Turn down the volume of your negative self talk until it completely disappears. 
  • Change the speed of your negative self talk to either a very fast or slow pace. You can make it so fast or slow you just can’t understand it or so it becomes so weird sounding you just can’t believe it.
  • Change the sound of your negative self talk voice to the voice of Homer Simpson, Fred Flintstone or your favourite carton character. It makes it impossible to take it seriously.
  • Put the voice in a sealed box or locked drawer so the voice can’t escape. Put insulation around it so you can’t hear it.

9. ➡️ Make it an object and distance yourself from it

When you notice an unpleasant emotional state—such as worry, anger, or frustration— separate yourself from it by seeing it as another thing or person. Hold it at arm’s length and observe it impartially. Acknowledge it with something like, “Hello frustration, I see you’re active today.” This simple acknowledgment relaxes the parts so you can face the real hardship—whatever triggered them in the first place.

10. ➡️ Reframe the phrase

Substitute a positive affirmation for your negative self talk. For example, if you find yourself saying “How could you do such a stupid thing?” Reframe it as “I grow as a result of learning from my mistakes”. Play around with how to reword your typical negative phrases to find out which ones work for you. Find alternatives that give you energy. 

Give this a go and let me know how you get on. If you get stuck or need more guidance please get in touch. 

Handy little tricks to help you manage your mind in life and sport

👀👀 PERIPHERAL VISION 👀👀

When we feel stressed, anxious or nervous we have a tendency to become ‘tunnel-visioned’. We focus on the point right in front of us and see all the details.

🚨This tunnel vision is linked to the arousal of our sympathetic nervous system – the fight or flight response that triggers adrenalin and can make us agitated, nervous an anxious.

However research has shown that when we broaden our field of vision and become aware of what is around us we can engage parts of the brain that can actually change our emotions, physical feelings and our reactions.

🧠 This peripheral vision or peripheral awareness activates the parasympathetic nervous system – responsible for calmness and relaxation. By becoming more aware of the space all around you and directing your attention to it you can block out anxiety, nervousness and stress. By using it you can chill out. You can even feel muscles in your jaw, and shoulders and face relax when using peripheral vision.

🏈 It can also improve sports skills: a cricketer can better track a ball using peripheral vision; a footballer can better judge the run of a team mate; and a formula one driver can better assess overtaking opportunities. The England rugby team deemed peripheral awareness skills so important it used a peripheral vision coach in the 2003 World Cup.

➡️ HOW TO ACTIVATE PERIPHERAL VISION 

  • 👀 Look forward at a point in front of you. Keep looking at that point but become aware of everything around you – to the sides and behind. You can use your hands to help if you’re new to this. Hold your hands up and move them out to the side of you and keep moving them till you can’t see them. But don’t look at them, just keep your awareness and attention on them. 
  • 👀 Put your awareness even further round behind you – be aware of the space and sounds behind you.
  • 👀 To test if it’s working, while you’re in full peripheral vision think of something or someone that would normally arouse irritation or anxiety or stress. It is likely you can’t maintain that feeling. Now try the opposite and think of something or someone you really like. You should get a good feeling easily.

The effects of peripheral vision are extremely effective and can be an instant fix to a stressful situation. You can do it any time and in any place – you don’t have to use your hands!! 

🧘 So each time you take a break from the computer or when you’re getting stressed in a queue just practise your peripheral awareness and notice the difference in how you feel. Practise it often so it becomes part of your toolbox of relaxation techniques. 

NEXT: Mind chatter: what does your inner voice sound like and how can you change it? 🗣🗣🗣🗣

Self belief is the bedrock of achievement. Self belief is not the same thing as self confidence. It is the way we label ourselves and the things we believe about ourselves. But those labels and beliefs are not necessarily true or fixed and can be negative and detrimental to our training and performance.

Not backing ourselves to win will lead to falling short of hitting our goals. What we believe is what drives our behaviour, so if you find yourself not getting the results you want, have a look at what you believe about yourself as that could well be the culprit.

Here’s a few examples of negative self belief:

  • 👉 All or nothing attitude: thinking that if a performance isn’t perfect it’s a failure
  • 👉 Labels (the way you describe yourself or your behaviour):  “I always choke….” “I’m a slow runner”
  • 👉 Comparison: “I’ll never beat her”
  • 👉 Rigid or critical thinking: “That’s just the way I am” “I always mess up” “I should have done better”

If we can challenge any negative beliefs we can change the way we act and what we do. Shift your beliefs and you can shift your behaviour. 

Behaviours become habitual too so if you’ve ever found yourself in a rut of repeating unproductive behaviours like skipping training sessions, getting stuck in a negative thought cycle during long runs/rides, or not quite reaching your potential in races you are unwittingly giving your brain a pattern to follow and our brains love familiar patterns because it’s comfortable.

Here’s an example of an athlete whose self belief issues are causing him to struggle to execute a training plan. He tells himself he is not committed and dedicated enough. It wasn’t that he didn’t have the time or the ability, it was that he had written a story about himself that not only wasn’t true but it was detrimental to his goals. 

On the surface this behaviour and thinking looks like self sabotage but it isn’t. Yes the behaviour is unhelpful but your mind always has the best intentions, it isn’t trying to derail you. So you have to work out what intention that thought or behaviour really is. In the example of the athlete who, despite setting high goals and expectations, can’t stay committed to a training plan, he thinks that by not putting 100% into training and preparing for a race his reward may be that he can’t be disappointed when he gave all he had and then still fell short of his goal.

If he only gives 70% and falls short that’s because the preparation wasn’t there, having nothing to do with him. However, he may believe (even if it’s subconscious) that if he gave 100% and fell short of his goal then it would mean he isn’t good enough and doesn’t have what it takes. The reward is that he gets to protect his sense of self worth from the result. 

So, the faulty core belief that needs to be changed here is they think they’re not good enough or that his results are linked to self worth. 

To change the behaviour, the belief system needs to corrected. By putting intentional work into separating self worth from the results, this athlete can achieve the same reward (protecting self-worth) while the behaviour can change (committing to training and racing at 100%). 

You core belief that needs changing may be different to this one of self worth. But beliefs can be changed and when you identify what your belief issue is and practice changing it then your behaviour will change accordingly. Tackle the belief and you will hit those goals. 

Belief is truly the groundwork for achievement. So as the quote says whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. So which one are you going to think?

If you want to identify your own self belief issues and arm yourself with tools and techniques to manage them please get in touch. 

One of the main reasons athletes and sports folk retain a coach, sign up to a coaching programme or even using tools like Training Peaks is because they want to be held accountable. 

Accountability is definitely one of the most effective ways to make sure you deliver on what you say you’re going to do: if you have to report back to someone it’s 100 per cent more likely you’ll actually do it. Even just telling a friend or you partner can work in that respect.

However, danger can lurk if you think engaging a coach or signing up to a coaching programme provides a turn-key solution. I had an athlete tell me recently that they wanted their coach to hold them more accountable. Does that mean requesting more feedback more often? Or did it mean they were looking for a whip-cracking, Brett Sutton style of coach? Did they feel they weren’t getting results and it was the coach’s fault for not nagging them more?

It doesn’t matter. What’s really going on here is passing the buck. Coached training works but, being accountable to yourself is more important and where the real juicy results are found.

Accountability is about having integrity, doing what you say you’re going to do. Then being able to put your hand up and say ‘this is what I need to do better’ if you don’t get it right. Being accountable is not making excuses, not blaming others or whinging and complaining. Accountability is taking ownership of something and making sure you ‘know your job and do your job’ 100% of the time.

Accountability happens when you are the one critiquing your own performance. This is what successful people do. This is what tough athletes do. Remember it is not your coach’s fault if you lose focus or put in a poor performance. 

I’ve seen clients who want to be the best athlete in whatever sport and they talk a big game. But then they never show up to training, don’t work consistently, eat wrong or slack off in other ways. Goals without accountability are pipe-dreams. The successful athletes are those who are not worried about trying to impress and instead focused on behaving the way they need to to hit their mark.

Being accountable isn’t something that just happens. It isn’t the coach telling you what you did or didn’t do right that week or in that session. It isn’t the data saying you are on track. Yes, feedback is essential but you need a process or a system that helps you to be accountable. You need to evaluate your performance and work out steps for future improvement. Set the goal – develop the plan – put it into practice.

Being really clear about your goals in the first place will help you stay accountable. Communicate it with your coach, be clear, concise and constructive. Follow through too – own the responsibility and execute the plan. Critical is to focus on the process and not the outcome. Yes, the end goal is to be a faster, stronger, fitter athlete but being accountable for the steps it takes to get there is what will get you there. 

Being accountable entails controlling only those things that you can control; preparation, attitude, skill development, training, effort and focus. Being accountable requires that you look within.

If you’re finding that you’re putting in place accountability measures but still falling short of hitting your goals then it’s likely your goal setting strategy needs work. A goal-setting session is where I recommend any of my clients start. It’s more than writing down your plans. Done properly it’s a robust and methodical process that ensures your goals are achievable and in harmony with your life and your identity.  Too often we fall short of goals because we didn’t put in place what we needed first or the goal was out of synch with our life.

The sessions I run are a super effective strategy for identifying potential future roadblocks so you can work out how to deal with them before the training gets derailed. The session will help you work out what resources, skills and tools you will need to achieve your aims.

I prefer to call goal-setting creating well-formed outcomes because you want goals to end with real results not just pipe dreams. I will be running another workshop on goal-setting before the end of the year but if you want to benefit from a bespoke one-to-one session get in touch. Your future self will thank you. 

Let’s talk about choice. Warning: this might be an uncomfortable read for some!

When we think about our behaviour, our actions and our attitudes it’s easy to not take 100 per cent responsibility for them. We all too often blame our genes, our upbringing, someone else or our circumstances for not doing something or for not achieving what we want. Excuses are easy to find. But that’s an apologist view and implies we have no agency or control over our behaviour and therefore outcomes. But we do! Determinism is not the same as inevitability. Your fate is not sealed and you can ‘own’ your issues and take control and create the outcomes you want. 

It’s about choice. We can decide to do something, or not. It’s that simple and that difficult. 

Choice Theory posits that our behaviour thoughts, feelings, physiology and action are a choice. Every part of it.

Decide to do something and do it. Or don’t. Choose not to eat the doughnut; choose to do the extra rep; choose to set the alarm early; choose to say no; choose to say yes; choose not to listen to your negative voice; choose to be kind. Choose the behaviour that is more productive for you, that takes you closer to your goal.

We may not be fully aware that every behaviour is a choice – we think we are a victim of external control rather than internal control, but we are responsible for our own choices and the states of being come from within. 

By thinking about your life this way you can be more responsible and empowered; you can live an independent, blame-free life with integrity. And choices help you reach your goals. What people do or say and what happens around is us is information. It is our choice how we perceive and filter it and respond to it. 

It might feel hard at first to accept it’s about choice – you weren’t really that busy you chose to skip the training – but once you give it some thought and practise choice you’ll be liberated. You’ll be your own master and you’ll feel strong and in control.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In those choices lie our growth and our happiness.” 

Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

When I was ironman training the toughest sessions I had to do were not the six-hour long rides or 20-mile runs, but the turbo sessions. The short walk across the garden from my house to my garage – where my pain cave is set up – always took epic levels of discipline. Especially in the cold, dark winter days/evenings. I’m sure you all know the feeling well.

Finding the motivation to hit the turbo is one of our toughest training challenges. No mates to ride with, no nice views to distract us and we often dread the pressure of hitting those big watts. We all know once we’ve done the session we feel great, but the first step is often the hardest.

Below I’ve listed some nifty tricks to help you get your arse in gear and hop on the turbo full of motivation. Some are simple tools for when you only need a gentle nudge, others are more powerful techniques for when your mojo has properly ridden off and left you. 

So next time you’re suffering with CBA, try one or several of these. 

#1 Motivation follows intention. Waiting till you feel motivated could mean waiting forever but if you set an intention, motivation follows. That intention could be just putting on your bib shorts. The mind responds to mini strategies so just take one step towards your goal and your brain will get the message that it’s time to go.

#2 Remember your ‘why’. Motivation isn’t about what you’re doing by why you’re doing it. Every athlete should have a solid, personal and powerful reason (or reasons) for doing it. Remind yourself of your why every time you feel motivation waning. It’s a helpful tool in the middle of tough training sessions too.

Not got a why? Drop me a message and I’ll let you have steps on how to create one.

#3  In your head play a film of you doing the session: watch yourself powering on the turbo. Then imagine yourself doing it: see it through your own eyes and engage all senses – hear your hard breathing, feel the sweat, see the numbers on the screen. Experiment with this visual by making it brighter, more colourful, larger, bringing it closer. Make the sound more intense, louder and even add some music – a song you know gets you pumped. Any feelings you have inside the body, intensify them in any way you can, double the feeling, or create an intensity dial in your mind and crank that feeling up.

#4 Create a ‘zone dome’. This take a bit of time but is super powerful. It’s about making your own personal bubble of performance that you can step in and out of at will. 

– Start by imagining yourself standing in a circle. Fill the circle with a colour you find positive and energising. Surround yourself with the colour and notice how you are feeling. Allow the feeling to grow stronger until it reaches a peak. When it’s at its most intense, step out of the circle. 

  • Then do a physical pose or movement of cycling. As you do it imagine you’re surrounded by that dome of colour again. Allow the the feeling to grow to peak intensity once more and then step our of the circle. 
  • Then repeat the process but this time think of a word or phrase that encapsulates the emotion you want to feel – maybe ‘fast’ ‘strong’ or even ‘relaxed’. Repeat the word and have the zone around you once more. Let the intensity build again to peak state and then step out. 
  • Do this process once more with a song or music that makes you feel good and play around with how loud you like it. 

Then fold up the circle/zone dome and put it in your pocket. You can take it out any time, anywhere and step into it for the feelings to return. Yes it seems bonkers but give it a try.

#5 Watch a YouTube clip of a time trial/race/triathlon (your chosen sport). Sometimes just seeing others doing it can spur the joy. 

#6 Recall a past time when you felt energetic, powerful and strong. Maybe it was a race or time trial that went really well. Close your eyes and go back into that state. Really feel all the things again that you felt then. Engage all your senses, relive all the moments, make it really intense. When you open your eyes you might find you’re ready for that session.

#7 Ask yourself how you will feel if you don’t do the session. Or swap the hard one for an easy ride. It’s easy to talk yourself out of it or make it easier but you know every session feeds into the next. If you skip this session imagine how you will feel later, tomorrow, next week or on race day when you don’t hit the PB you aimed for or fell short of your race day goal. 

This sounds negative but “away motivation” can sometimes work. Reaching your end goal only happens if you take each step on the way.

#8 Be accountable. Tell someone you’re going to do the session – having to report back to a friend or a coach or your partner makes you 50% more likely to do it.

Have you ever battled the voices in your head that tell you it’s too far, too painful, and too hard?

Words are powerful—especially the ones you repeat to yourself.

Whether you’re a new cyclist or an experienced racer, carefully chosen words are the one (mental) thing that can help push your riding performance to new heights.

Much like the food you eat on a ride to keep your physical energy up, your words are the mental fuel you need to help you:

✓ Pedal faster

✓ Maintain a steady cycling habit

✓ Climb hills

✓Increase your motivation

✓ Bolster endurance

✓ Dig deep

✓ Calm pre-race nerves 

That’s right – your inner monologue has a major impact on whether you’ll ride for say, 30 miles or 40.

And whether you’ll cover those 30 miles in two hours or three.

What you’ll learn here is how you can deliberately and consistently use power words to mentally fuel your rides.

And, as you’ll learn below, how the words you choose to use on your rides can help you pedal faster and longer.

HOW RESEARCH REVEALED THE ENORMOUS IMPACT OF WORDS

Study #1

Researchers gathered 24 cyclists to learn how their inner self-talk influenced riding ability.

What they suspected was cyclists shortened their workouts because their mind – not their muscles – were tired.

So they split the cyclists into two groups.

One group rode with no further coaching or instruction.

The second group was coached to repeat motivational statements like ‘drive forward’ and ‘feeling good’ as they rode.

The result?

Cyclists who used encouraging statements rode longer than those who didn’t.

Study #2

That’s not all, though.

In another study, researchers recruited 14 recreational male cyclists.

This time, cyclists reported when they repeated negative comments to themselves. After pinpointing those negative statements, they crafted positive, motivational statements  to counteract the negative ones.

For this study, cyclists wrote one negative and one motivational statement for the start of the time trial and for each 2 km section.

For example, one cyclist wrote, ‘I’ve worked too hard’ and exchanged it for a positive statement, ‘I can manage my energy until the end’.

Then, the cyclists rehearsed their motivational statements before the time trial.

The result? A faster time trial with more power.

HOW TO USE POWER WORDS WHEN YOURE RIDING

These two studies prove that a few key swaps to your words can help you ride further, faster, and with more power.

Here’s how you can use it when you’re cycling.

1. Take note of when youre beating yourself up.

This requires a bit of attention from you, but don’t stress yourself out over every negative thought you have.

Are those voices in your head telling you, ‘you can’t’, ‘you’re not fast enough’, and ‘this is too hard’?

Does the negative chatter tend to appear when it’s too cold outside?  When you’re pushing the pace? Climbing a hill? On a group ride?

You’ve got to observe when and where that voice happens to deal with it effectively.

2. Find and build an arsenal of power statements that gives you energy.

Now, what works for one cyclist may not work for another, but here are some phrases to get you started:

  • Keep pushing
  • You’re ready for this
  • Fast and smooth
  • Let’s do this
  • As long as I breath, I attack – Bernard Hinault
  • Stay tough
  • You’re doing well
  • Push through this
  • Light it up

3. Swap your statements

Remember how in the second cycling self-talk study, one cyclist exchanged a negative statement for a positive one?

He swapped ‘I’ve worked too hard’ for ‘I can manage my energy until the end.

Any time you’ve noticed negativity creeping in on a ride, counteract it with a motivational, positive phrase.

So when the thoughts of ‘this is too hard’ bubbles to the surface, you’re ready to replace it with one that’s far better – ‘you’re ready for this’.

Or:

‘I can’t climb this hill.’  ➡️ ‘Let’s do this.’

‘This is too fast.’ ➡️ ‘ Fast and smooth’.

‘I don’t have any energy left.’ ➡️ ‘Push through this.’

4. Train with your power words

Much like how you train to get better on your bike, you’ll get better with using power phrases when you use them often when you’re riding.

THE QUICK TIPS ✏️

1| Take note of when you’re beating yourself up

2| Build an arsenal of power words to use on rides

3| Swap your statements

4| Train with your power words\

If you have any questions or need more information or think you could benefit from one-to-one coaching on this or any other aspect of mental training please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Message me via The Mind Coach on Facebook, Instagram; email themindcoach@btinternet.com or call on 07704 336835. No obligation and all queries dealt in confidence. Happy cycling!

TTs: the race of truth. Nowhere to hide. Just you and the road and a target time. Doubtless you’ve dialled in that position (aero is everything, right?), you’ve spent all winter monitoring those watts, tracking that heart rate, nailing those intervals, finessing your nutrition, upgrading moving parts and fine-tuning your bike for optimal race performance. Body and bike race ready. But what about your brain? How much mental training have you done and do you have a mental strategy for that 10, 25, 50, 100 or 12 hour challenge?

In elite sport there is of course an emphasis on improving technical ability and fitness but pro cyclists find the real marginal gains in improving their mental skills.

It’s no coincidence that both Team Sky and British Cycling riders are supported by renowned psychologists who help them to reach peak performance at the moments when it really matters. Sports vary in how much technical skill or fitness is required but success is so often enjoyed by the athlete or team with the better mental skill.

Mental skill is made up of concentration, will and emotional balance. So to get your mind as ready as the other components here are some top tips on those three areas. Remember mental strength has to be practised – just the way you consistently train your body, so you must train your brain.

WHY THE HELL AM I DOING THIS?

When you’re at that point in the TT when the only thing that doesn’t hurt are your eyelids remember why you’re doing it. What is your motivation? What is your ‘why’? How strong is your will? In short, how bad do you want this?

You are less likely to ease off the gas if your motivation is intrinsic – that is, if it’s for personal, internal reasons rather than if your drive comes from external motivation, such as the need to impress your dad or win prizes. So think about your true reasons and the more it matters to you personally the stronger your mind will be when the physical part gets tough.

Closely linked to this is your goal. Setting a goal for a specific race or a full season will benefit your performance significantly. Make goals specific, attainable yet challenging and they will act as point of reference: you know when you should peak and can calculate what you should do to get there. It also provides the comfort that you do not always have to be at your best. 

FOCUS DAMMIT

Riding alone is considered the hardest mental discipline.  Research among shows that riders perform worse when alone, compared to when riding in a group, even when controlling for outside factors such as slipstream advantage.

The theory is that cycling in groups makes the competitive element more directly visible: you can see how you’re doing in comparison to others. If you have good legs, this comparison will boost your confidence, stimulating even better performance.

Visible competition with others helps you to focus on the competition or training that you are engaged in. Focus is extremely important.

Optimal performance is only possible if you are able to focus fully on the race. The risk, when riding alone, is that you let your thoughts drift, displacing your mental (and consequently physical) energy to other areas.

Even more dysfunctional, but also very common in solo cycling, is to start focusing on your body instead of the race. This internal focus intensifies feelings of physical discomfort, and consequently reduces your ability to withstand the pain.

Whenever you feel yourself becoming distracted and absorbed in internal sensations, it is vital to refocus on the race and the road. One brilliant strategy to keep focus and to manage the inevitable pain is to focus on your breathing. Many pro cyclists are now using mindfulness techniques to great effect for improving focus and pain management. Paying attention on our breath takes us away from the inner mind chatter that all too often is screaming at you to ease back when it’s hurting. Your brain is designed to protect you against pain so that voice that wants you to slow down isn’t trying to sabotage you – and you’re not weakening – but the key is to give it no attention. Focusing on your breathing, on your body means you can’t listen to the internal voice.

Practise this at home.  Sit straight and relax. Now focus on your breathing for a full eight minutes. Pay attention to how your breath moves in and out. Your thoughts may wander; if they do, calmly bring the focus back on to your breathing.

This task — when done repeatedly — trains you to sharpen your cycling focus. When you feel your focus drifting while in the saddle, having practised this mindfulness technique, you will be able to shift your thinking back into focus quickly.

OWN YOUR ZONE

A close relationship exists between performance quality and intensity level: your performance may be poorer when your intensity level is too low (perhaps because you feel tired) or too high (perhaps because you’re overexcited).  One technique I use with clients is an ‘arousal dial’ (steady, it’s not like that!). It’s an effective means for helping a client into the perfect state for performance. It helps them throttle up or down to find the right intensity.

Also, when you are truly focused you enter the ‘zone’; that flow state you may have been lucky enough to experience. It’s an unconscious state when you are totally in the present, with no awareness of distractions or even time and utterly absorbed not giving a thought to mechanics or paying attention to internal chat and it just … flows. 

I work with my clients to develop a technique called the ‘zone dome’ which provides them with mental tools to create this feeling. It’s a portable skill that you can learn to pop into whenever needed. If you’re interested in how to create your own zone dome, drop me a message.

And don’t forget to develop a mantra. This is a word or phrase that you’ve created to help you feel epic and to keep those self-doubt demons at bay. It’s easy to feel confident until you rock up to register and you catch sight of the ‘competitors’. Maybe you start feeling intimidated or let self doubt creep in. Maybe you’re new to this, maybe you’re taking part in your first regional or maybe it’s just been so damn long since we were last here that nerves are getting the better of you. 

They key here is to come back to your mantra. Develop a mantra, in self belief, practise it at home repeatedly until you’re sure it works. If it doesn’t work change it till it does.

REHEARSE IT

Imagining an optimal performance is a great way to ensure you nail it on race day. When we mentally rehearse a skill we actually fire off the same neurology as if were were actually doing it. So it goes further than just making us feel confident and increasing self belief,  you can literally create a neurophysiological blueprint for enhancing your performance. 

Create a clear mental image of what you want to achieve in a race. When visualising your ideal race, include the sights, sounds and emotions that accompany the experience. Make this picture as rich as you possibly can. Increase the colour, turn up the sound, bring it into sharp focus, really feel the adrenalin. Strive to experience the action from your point of view – what it feels like to stand in the starting area, feeling calm and composed; and what it feels like to cross the finish line feeling strong and happy. See it through your own eyes. 

PROJECT CONFIDENCE

On race day, what’s your body language saying? Is your chin up, shoulders back, chest out? Research shows that holding your body in confident postures for only a couple of minutes can produce elevations in testosterone, decreases in the stress hormone cortisol and increased feelings of power, as well as tolerance for risk when it’s needed.

Remember mental strength is something you practise and train just as you do physically. So don’t leave it till race day to put performance psychology techniques to the test.

If you have any questions about anything mentioned here or think you’d benefit from one-to-one coaching don’t hesitate to message or call me. 

Nicky Roger