Weekly Wisdom: Mental Fitness

A depleted Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) reaches the the finish. Post-race, Ella CyclingTips learned from Armitstead that she had been sick all week and was still on the mend.

by Jennifer Sharp


Please welcome Jennifer Sharp (née Triplett), an ALP Cycles coach and Weekly Wisdom contributor.

Jennifer, a USA Cycling Level 1 Coach, started racing in 2004 as a means to fulfill her competitive itch. Previously a national level boxer, she grew tired of getting hit in the head and decided to pound the pedals instead. She bought a pink Kona road bike that she put to the test on several recreational rides during which she found herself passing as many people as possible. Since then she has added multiple podiums at elite track national championships, master track national championship titles and world cup finishes under her belt.

Sharp’s experience as a USA ParaCycling team tandem pilot, part-time work at USA Cycling in the Coaching Education Department and love for all things cycling gives her a unique perspective that she’s happily sharing with all of us here on Ella.

ANNE MARIJE ROOK


Weekly Wisdom: Mental Fitness

Raise your hand if you spend more than five hours a week working on your physical fitness. Good. Now raise your hand if you spend more than five hours a week working on your mental fitness. Not as good? You’re not alone. In fact, you are part of the majority of athletes who overlook the mental aspect of training.

Yet mental training is key, if not critical, to successful performance. Your head needs to be in the right space to perform to your potential. Focusing on a few key mental skills can catapult you to the head of the peloton. Read on to familiarise yourself with the areas in which a bit of emphasis can translate into big gains.

Self-Confidence

Having an overall positive sense of self-confidence along with a realistic sense of your abilities and readiness can facilitate concentration, heighten effort, arouse positive emotions and influence the setting of meaningful and challenging goals.*

What are your strengths as a bike racer? Where do you excel? What areas do you focus on in training? What areas do you need to work on? Taking stock of your strengths and weaknesses is a great starting point to discuss with a valued advisor such as a team captain, sport director or coach.

It can be hard to admit areas where you lack skill or maybe the opposite is true – you have a hard time admitting strength. You need an understanding of both to use your strengths to address your weaknesses to raise your confidence. In order to do this, use language that focuses on positive growth.

Think positively and learn to reframe negative thoughts. Put affirming post-it notes around your house such as, “I am a great climber,” or “I can sprint!” Be honest and realistic with yourself and your commitment to training and your potential. Focus on performance goals rather than outcomes or results. Expectations

Expectation: a belief that someone will or should achieve something or a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.

What are your goals for 2015 and beyond? Are you aiming for the Olympics and just started racing? Or are you hoping to finish a race for the first time? Have you set up a clear path to get you there?

Goals and expectations are important to map out with your coach or any other trusted advisor. Creating a clear plan with specific outcome and performance goals to check off along your journey will give you something to believe in as well as motivate you to stick with the steps needed to reach those goals. Coming up with a plan will also help you figure out your level of commitment so you can meet or adjust expectations you set along the way.

Motivation

Why do you cycle? What gets you out of the bed each morning to train in the dark and cold? Why do you compete?

Knowing the answers to these questions can help you understand why you ride or race. If a coach knows why you want to perform, they can tailor a training plan to suit your needs. Whether you are internally or externally motivated, it’s important to remember that cycling is something that you should enjoy. Make sure your coach is including you in training schedule decisions. Ask for a variety of training options to keep things fresh.

These topics are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mental training skills. If interested, check out “Thinking Body, Dancing Mind.” I am a big advocate of training the mind and look forward to sharing more on this topic with you in the future. And if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments or on Twitter using #askalp.

Your questions for Jennifer or any of the other ALP Cyles coaches don’t need to be limited to the topic at hand. Ask them anything! Post your question in the comments below or send it to us on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtags #weeklywisdom or #askalp.

Read previous Weekly Wisdom columns, here>>>

 


ALP Cycles Coaching alpcycleslogo - edited is a Boulder-based coaching company with three female coaches at the helm: Alison Powers, Jennifer Sharp and Patricia Schwager.

Each coach brings her own coaching strengths and personal experiences. Roading racing, track, endurance mountain biking, time trialling, making the leap to living and racing in Europe – they’ve got you covered. Find out more about Alison Powers and her Alp Cycles coaching company at here.

Editors Picks