Mental toughness is an important skill that cyclists need to develop. While most cyclists train hard, relatively few focus on the mental aspect. Cycling is a hard sport and we end up asking ourselves “is this really worth it?” in most races, events or challenging training sessions. And many riders bag it at this point and tell themselves that no, it isn’t worth it.
Well, yes it is worth it. Mental toughness is important in cycling and in life, so toughen up by following the 3 steps below:
- Acknowledge it as a requirement and determine if it’s a weakness. We live on the road and in the elements, and not every day is pleasant. We deal with strong winds, cold temps, rain, sleet, snow, mud, sun, intense heat and everything in between. But still we ride. In addition, we have competitors and training partners who want to beat us. So we have to fight to stay on a wheel, bridge gaps, climb hard to keep contact, push with everything we have to break away or to win a sprint. So not only must we be physically strong to deal with these realities, we must be mentally tough. It’s hard to fight the elements for hours. It’s hard to keep pushing when our legs and lungs are screaming for us to slow down. But we know that if we can MAKE ourselves keep going, we CAN make it. So just knowing the importance of being mentally tough is point #1.
- Realize that everyone else is in the same boat. Whether it’s the elements we’re fighting or the other riders, everyone is fighting the same battle. Simply telling yourself that “if they can do this, so can I” is a big step, followed by the unwillingness to give up. That of course is easier said than done, but promising yourself that you won’t quit – then adhering to your promise – will separate you from most of your competitors. As Winston Churchill said, “Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in…”
- Practice! Search for ways to practice and hone your mental toughness skills. Start out small, and then constantly expand your comfort zone. For example, go for a ride in the rain when you otherwise wouldn’t. Ride into the wind for long periods of time, and learn to enjoy it. In your group rides or training rides, practice closing gaps where you have to push to make it and not get dropped. Each time you succeed, you’ve built your confidence and you’ve got an “anchor” that you can think back to in your next challenging situation.
Be like Lance and Tiger and relish the opportunity to compete in adverse conditions. When the other riders are sitting in the coffee shop (or wishing they were) complaining, you’ll be out getting stronger.
What are your favorite tips and tricks for improving your mental toughness? Add yours to the “Comment” section below, then GET OUT AND RIDE!