- Eddy Merckx
If you've been following along with this series of articles you may have noticed that the mental training program I have outlined loosely follows training expert Tudor Bompa's theory of periodization in the way that it progresses from non-specific training (breathing, relaxation), to more specific (addressing specific weakness through positive affirmations). In this next step, we'll take it to the level of specific race preparation as you target a particular event and prepare your mind for it.
However, just like in physical periodization, you must have built a base in order to add this latest step to the top of the pyramid. Although theoretically, you could jump in here and go straight to the mental race preparation stage, the results will be lessened having not done the breathing and the positive affirmations. In other words, if you haven't done so already, go back, spend some time on the previous two phases before continuing on.
Grease is the word
If you've been practicing the exercises, you should notice increased confidence and performance in the areas you've targeted. Once again, I don't want you to get discouraged if the results aren't tangible the way a personal best in a time trial or power test might be, but trust me, they're there.
After working on relaxing and focusing on the bike for several months, my epiphany came when accelerating from a stop sign at a corner. My rear wheel slipped on some grease and spun completely around so that my bike did a 180 and ended up facing the complete opposite direction. I was just coming off a pretty bad crash and another one right away would have meant serious repercussions both physically and mentally.
Instead of panicking and adrenaline shooting into my veins, I had remained calm and focused and kept the bike upright. I was actually laughing as I turned around and continued on my way. That was when I knew everything was going to be different from then on.
What this has been leading up to is visualization. Now that you've become more focused and attuned to your mind and body, it is time to really SEE the goals you have set for yourself. I often tell my clients, "If you can't even imagine yourself winning a race in your head, you're certainly going to have a hard time winning one on the road." We must learn to see clearly in our heads what we want to accomplish. How do we do that?
How to write for Hollywood
Before every "A" race, I have each of my riders sit down at the computer and write a script. A script is a highly-detailed description including sights, sounds, smells and feelings of the perfect race day from the moment you wake up to the finish of the race. This is crucial because as I said before, if you can't imagine it, it's going to be damn hard to make it happen.
Start your script with waking up in the morning. Did you get good night's sleep? Do you feel rested and refreshed and excited to race? Of course you do. Therefore the first line of your script might read, "I wake up in the morning after a great night of deep, revitalizing sleep. I feel rested and ready to race!"
Move on to the drive to the race. Are you running late, having trouble finding things, not sure of the directions? Not in this fantasy. Your next line might be, "My equipment has been neatly laid out the night before. I load it into the car with plenty of time to spare and follow my carefully prepared directions to the race."
You might notice that some of these things require real, physical preparation, and that thinking it won't make it happen, but the more you work this script into your subconscious mind (which will be discussed in the next article), the more likely the physical things will get taken care of ahead of time.
Next, you might go through your perfect warm up. Describe how good your legs feel and how you feel the perfect level of excitement and anticipation without being overly anxious. Describe the way you feel at the line and how you look around knowing no one there has prepared harder or more diligently than yourself.
Describe the perfect race. If you're a sprinter, describe yourself staying safe and protected in the pack and the race coming back together at the end for a field sprint. If you want to get into a breakaway, describe yourself getting into the perfect break with the perfect mix of riders at the perfect moment in the race.
Once again, you might argue that these things are beyond your control and no amount of imagery could affect the actions of an entire pack of riders, but you'll be surprised. If you really work on this stuff, more often than not, things will happen fairly closely to the way you saw them in your script.
Life imitating fiction
Last season, I did a script for the first stage of the Cascade Stage Race, an NRC event in Oregon. This is a mountainous stage race with all the big pro teams in attendance, but in that first stage the year before, I'd seen an opportunity for an individual amateur rider to possibly shake things up.
The last King of the Mountains (K.O.M.) of the stage came just before a 10-mile descent to the finish. If the pack was together through the feed zone at the bottom of the climb, the sprinters would be starting to set up for that 10-mile downhill and wouldn't want to do any extra work on the climb so maybe they would let one or two riders get away to steal the K.O.M. points.
I visualized the heck out of this scenario and sure enough as we approached the final feed zone, the pack was all together with Health Net setting a steady tempo to bring Gord Fraser to the line. I attacked, caught and passed Charles Dionne of Webcor, the lone rider up the road, and took the K.O.M. Webcor caught us on the 10-mile descent, but taking that K.O.M. against such a strong field remains one of my shining moments in cycling and it still amazes me the way it happened exactly the way I saw it in my script.
Write your own screenplay
You have just one assignment this time around. Pick an important event, whether it's a race, a century or just a club ride. Spend some time thinking about previous great days you had on the bike and incorporate some of those feelings and experiences into your script.
Include any and all details that you think might be important to having your best day on the bike. The more detail you include the better, such as the temperature, wind, light and your own feelings. The more description you have, the easier it will be to make it real when you visualize the entire scenario.
In the next and final article we'll discuss how to put it all together, the breathing, the affirmations and the script into one powerful visualization that will stick in your subconscious mind and produce some powerful results.
Josh Horowitz is a USCF Certified coach and an active Category 1 racer. For more information about his coaching services check out contact Josh@liquidfitness.com or check out his Web site at www.liquidfitness.com.
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