Read recent coverage in New Orleans 70.3 triathlon and interview with Paige Dunn on mental aspects of training.
I watch other athletes sometimes and wish I could bottle up their motivation and take a dose for my own. You know the ones….they never miss a day of riding, they always look like they are having fun even when its so cold and wet outside that you wouldn’t dare leave the house. And if they aren’t outside braving the elements, you know they are on their trainers logging the hours while you are trying to figure out how to muster up the energy to make some more coffee.
Its not that I’m not motivated. In fact, the one word most of my friends would choose to describe me as is motivated. But my levels of motivation change throughout the year and I, like every other athlete, need to switch things up a bit and focus on what I need to do to stay motivated. For me this means more yoga and mountain biking and moving the body enough to burn off the increased calorie consumption from my obsession with elaborate home-cooked meals throughout the Winter.
I have many athletes and friends who approach me asking how to jump start their training and racing. Motivate me….that’s essentially what they are asking of me. And while I can certainly try to help, motivation is something that comes from within. It is something so individual, so personal, that you truly are the only one that will have the power to maintain the power of motivation.
I asked some riders what motivates them and the answers ran the gamut. Dave Zabriskie shared, “I can say almost everything motivates me. I want to be the best. I want to try as hard as I can...I wonder what the world would be like if everyone tried to do their best. If I take too much time off the bike I get pretty agitated so it's best I keep riding or I would go insane trying to deal with this world. I can get so worked up over little things like gas powered leaf blowers, they drive me up the wall.”
Read the full article in the March issue of ROAD Magazine.....
Easier said than done right? Not necessarily. Numerous studies have shown that when athletes use the power of their mind to actually see themselves perform their sport, they can go on to achieve the image set forth in their minds. Using imagery, and the power of the mind to create successful athletic performances, can in fact help athletes achieve athletic excellence. Sound good? Why not improve your cycling with a dose of mental training and imagery practice?
Surely you’ve thought about what you need to do to physically to achieve your goals during training and racing but have you given though to what might help you out mentally? Imagery is a great place to start and incorporating imagery practice into your training routine can enhance your performance and may even help you achieve something you’ve only dreamed about. Considerable research supports the value of imagery practice and it has been shown to increase motivation, improve confidence, improve focus and can even help you learn new technique or skill.
So maybe you are rolling your eyes by now and thinking that this imagery stuff has to be a bunch of hocus-pocus. But don’t take our word for it – you might be surprised that most elite and professional athletes use some form of imagery practice and actually attribute their success to their imagery practice.
Like many cyclists, Levi Leipheimer is a fan of imagery practice. Its something he learned and took interest in many years ago as ski racer. When asked if it is an important part of his training Leipheimer shares “Definitely. When I do my time trial workouts, I know all the corners and little hills and I visualize riding them beforehand and I really try to focus on the amount of pain that it is going to take to succeed”.
Creating Your Imagery Script:
Here’s how to get started - imagine your ideal race and start writing down everything about that experience. See, hear and feel yourself racing exactly the way you want. Be as specific as possible. Write down every detail you can including the specifics of a course, the taste of your sports drink, the temperature, the wind, the feel of your helmet. The more senses you can include, the more effective the imagery experience will be.
Begin with arriving at your event, going through your normal prep routine, and the few minutes before your event begins. Imagine yourself being totally relaxed, confident, powerful and in complete control of your body and mind. Include affirmations and key words that motivate you and help get you in a pre-performance state that is optimal for you. Go through your whole event thinking of each significant part of the experience.
When you have finished writing down your imagery script, edit and revise it until you have created your perfect performance. To reap the full benefits of imagery, record and listen to your finished imagery script several times a week and before you know it you will be on auto-pilot. Some athletes choose to do their imagery practice every night before they go to bed or first thing in the morning. Find a time that will work for you – the important thing is to commit to imagery practice and to incorporate it in to your training just like you would any physical drill.
Establish your Imagery Practice:
Getting yourself in to a relaxed and meditative state is an important first step to effective imagery practice. First, find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Sit in a position you can remain in easily the entire time in which you will practice your imagery.
Start by focusing solely on your breathing. Take in a big, deep breath, and then release it, along with any tension you may be experiencing in your body. Put one or both hands on your abdomen, close your eyes and relax. (If you are not using both hands, leave one hand relaxed at your side). Take a series of deep breaths. Breathe in for two seconds, hold for two seconds, and breathe out for two seconds. With each breath, imagine a circle being drawn from your abdomen, up through your chest, out your mouth, and then back to your abdomen. Continue to take deep breaths, and when you feel as relaxed and focused as possible, start your imagery routine.
You can also practice your imagery right before a key training session or the moments before your event begins. Simply close your eyes for a few minutes, take several deep breaths and try to relax and then begin your imagery routine. It will put you in the right frame of mind and help you focus before your event begins.
Successful imagery requires motivation and commitment and you need to practice it consistently. Just like a physical skill it is not something where you will see benefits overnight. Start with once or twice a week and gradually work up to everyday. Schedule your imagery like you would any other thing in your life, such as a workout or training session, and before long it will become second nature.
Reprinted from September issue of ROAD Magazine
Your quads are screaming, your lungs are crushed, and all you can think about is throwing up as you complete that final climb. You should be able to answer the simple question of why…what for?
Successful athletes know exactly why they do what they do. At some point they identified the reason and connect to that reason. It’s really that simple. They know why their sport is important to them, what it means to them and they have clear direction and purpose.
An athlete recently asked me “Is it ok to change my goal?” I looked a little confused as I put together my response. Was he asking permission? “Of course I said. It’s your goal. You decide what your goals are and you decide what to do with them”.
My brief exchange with this cyclist made me realize that so often athletes are not fully connected to their goals. They have big plans to accomplish great things but become unmotivated at some point along the way and yet still feel that they have no choice but to follow through. How do athletes find themselves in this difficult and ambiguous position? Often this is because the goal was not important to them in the first place. Or maybe just not important enough to make it happen under any circumstances.
As athletes we commonly set goals and commit to make them happen. We plan, strategize, work hard and do everything we can to try to accomplish them. But what we often fail to do is understand our connection to that goal from the beginning and along the way. A goal that we are not connected to is simply something to cross off our to-do list. A powerful goal is one that we attach personal meaning to and once achieved find extremely fulfilling.
When I work with athletes on goal setting I start by taking them through a simple exercise of creating a mission statement. A mission statement is a written summary describing the aims, values, and overall plan of an organization or individual. Your company has one, your team may have one, but do you have one? Maybe you want to get faster, fitter, better, win. But why? Why are those things important to you?
Don’t underestimate the power of defining your relationship to your sport. Taking yourself through this exercise prior to working on goal setting will provide a solid foundation to work from and can help you make crucial adjustments to your goals throughout the year.
Take 5 minutes and sit down to explore your mission, purpose, and reason for participating in your sport. What you end up with should accurately explain why you do what you do and what it means to you. When you read what you’ve written you should be motivated, inspired and ready to set some big goals for yourself. One of the questions I am most often asked by athletes “how do I stay motivated?” Know exactly why you are working toward your goals and you have a much better chance of staying motivated.
Once an athlete has a clear understanding of what drives them I Introduce goal setting. A simple and effective formula to guide you through your goal setting is the S.M.A.R.T. formula,. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals and you are setting yourself up for success. S.M.A.R.T. goals broken down are:
S - specific
M - measurable
A - adjustable
R - realistic
T - timed
This formula is nothing new and in fact you may be familiar with different versions. The “A” is one of the principles that many debate over – some say the “A” should be “action oriented”, some say it should represent “aggressive” or “attainable”. I use the “A” to represent “adjustable”.
Goals are meant to be reset or adjusted for a number of reasons. Sometimes we set out to achieve a goal we have set for ourself only to discover that that goal is really not all that important to us. Sometimes we are confronted with a number of obstacles along the way – injury, personal or professional commitments. Whatever it may be, sometimes it is necessary to adjust a goal we have set for ourself and every athlete should have the freedom to do just that.
I have been challenged by athletes and coaches on the idea that goals can be adjustable. “You set a goal and it is set in stone. If you don’t achieve it then you don’t achieve it. You shouldn’t be able to change it along the way”. That’s a response or some version of that that I get every once in a while. But goals belong to you – you set them, you decide what to do with them and you decide what is going to make you happy in the long run.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that athletes should give themselves an out along the way. Goals are meant to be challenging and require commitment, hard work and heart. But continually ask yourself “Is this goal still important to me and why?” Go back to your mission statement and ask yourself if it accurately reflects who you are today and what you want to be working towards. We change, evolve and become different every day….our goals should as well.
Reprinted from October issue of ROAD Magazine