It's common knowledge that bike racing is a game of chess on wheels and to make the right split-second strategic decisions takes a lot of mental awareness and clarity of thought. But this cerebral element to cycling is not confined to competition – the same applies in training where, even though there is no finish line, accuracy and concentration before, during and after efforts will maximise performance.
The underlying objective of training is to overcome homeostasis and stress the body enough to invoke an overload scenario which will in turn produce adaptations: to make us stronger for the next time.
To push ourselves into that overload scenario and ultimately raise us to the next level takes cumulative time in the exact physiological zone(s) intended and that in turn requires a lot of focus. It would be folly to think it will always come easily.
So... eyes down then!
A THREE STAGE PROCESS
Break up the intensity of the efforts in your head with different keywords. The words you choose will reflect the intensity. Aggressive empowering phrases work well to spark raw power for shorter intervals, whereas phrases and memories of enduring work better with longer efforts as will refocusing your visual markers.
But you must also pace your mental focus. Just as you deplete the biochemical energy in your muscles you will use up your reserves of mental acuity. Controlling your emotions, driving your energy, keeping those numbers where you want them to be.
Now is the time to empower yourself mentally, your natural instinct may be to stop at that barbed wire fence that says 'no entry' but we prepared for this. We spoke internally about this moment where fatigue would be reaching a summit and we reasoned that this very moment is where gains are made and races are won.
I'm smashing this. Ripping through that fence. Pushing to the last second. Every second will count for ME.
Dark moments come in everyone's head but if you punch through the cloud line with the clarity of thought you will reduce those over time. Remember, for example, how the fourth out of six intervals seemed to be the hardest but your mental resolve on that one effort allowed you to complete the session. Reward yourself at the end of an especially hard session by pulling in for a treat.
Just as with the physical effort, your focus before, during and after training should vary according to the objective. Prepare calmly but clinically, keep your eye on the end-game at the beginning of a session and be ready to pull yourself through that barbed wire fence when the time comes. Then reflect serenely on how it went and what can be improved on next time.
If you would like our help at Elevation Coaching to formulate a progressive training plan to smash your goals and keep the fun in cycling get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
We offer a range of bespoke plans ranging from £75.