Improve Your cycling: Train Your Mind

Using imagery and power words can help you focus on your riding and forget the pain
If bike racing is all about who can suffer the most, then asking your body to work beyond the point of comfort in order to stay with a lead group becomes a requirement. Like the pistons of a car motor, your legs must continue moving up and down to push the pedals while your mind ignores the cry of your muscles to stop.

Despite your heart pounding and moving up into your throat, your mind has to ignore your body's pleas and continue sending signals to keep working at that same level of effort. Your mind is the key component to this and critical to any success you'll achieve.

More: 6 Pre-Race Mental Preparation Tips for Cyclists

It's all About Mental Toughness

You can follow a training plan perfectly and prepare your body well, but if your mind hasn't been trained to manage the pain, failure is likely. This is simply about mental toughness. If you give in too easily and stop, or want some strategies to use when you can't quit, read on.

As cyclists, we all know the feelings that occur as the pace goes from moderate to more intense. When the workload becomes painful and the body wants to stop, we start searching within ourselves for the moment when we will give in.

Some days we can stick it out a little longer than others, but eventually we reach the point where we make the decision to pull off and slow down. Physically it feels good, but mentally we know we need to be stronger and be able to hold on longer before easing up.

More: Mind Over Mountain: Mental Tips for Climbing

Pain as a Trigger

Consider this: Instead of your mind being either on or off -- or in other words, instead of mindlessly following the group or maintaining an effort level in which your body asks your mind for permission to stop -- involve your mind much earlier. Do this by using the discomfort or pain as a trigger for several strategies.

In the book Sport Psychology for Cyclists, the authors suggest several strategies that I believe work well. Below I've summarized them into my own words, but I still suggest you read the book. You might only find one or two strategies that work well for you, but I strongly encourage you to experiment with them right now.

More: The Role of Personality in Cycling Performance

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