Picture the scene. The start of a race, maybe it’s your first or maybe it’s your hundredth. You look around at all the flash bikes, and you think to yourself “I’m going to get thrashed here, my bikes cheap compared to the rest”. The starting buzzer (or what ever implement is being used to signal the start of the pain) goes and you’re off sprinting away like a Gazelle, or more usually a rabid Sloth. You come to the first climb of the day and you think ” I’m crap at climbing I might as well get off and push from the bottom”. About half way up you give in and begin the slow trudge to the top of mount mud bath. At the top of the climb you enter some tight single track which winds through between trees and you think “last time I rode on this type of track I crashed into a tree and….”. You awake to find yourself in the St John Ambulance with an egg inserted under your forehead.
Ok so not many people think as negatively as the guy above but whether we know it or not many of us are prone to negative thoughts. This type of thinking causes anxiety and a loss of self-confidence, which makes us feel anxious and causes a decrease in both performance and concentration.
There are various forms of negative thinking
- Worrying about your performance, “Am I going to do well or make myself look stupid”
- The inability to make a decision “Slick or knobbly tyres? What do you think?”
- Thinking about the consequences of a poor result “If I loose I might get thrown out of the team and no body will like me” (Sob sob!!).
- Feeling inadequate “Every body looks much fitter than me, I’ve had it”.
The first step to dispelling negative thoughts is to become aware of what you actually say to yourself. There are various ways to do this but one of the simplest is to keep a log of all your training, recreational rides and races and write down any negative thoughts you may have had. When doing this it is sometimes a good idea to mentally image the route you took and try and think what thoughts were going through your head at certain moments. Once you know what you say to yourself you can then work on how to control it.
Again, there are many techniques for controlling self-talk but here are a few.
- Thought Stopping — This technique involves concentrating on the negative thought for an instant then suddenly stopping that thought and clearing your mind. For example if you always experience negative thoughts on a climb try focusing on the feeling of you legs spinning around rather than what’s going on inside your head.
- Change negative thoughts to positive ones — If you find yourself thinking “I always get tired halfway up climbs” change your thought process to “If I focus on the correct technique I will do well.”
- Control the controllable — If you know your weak areas work on them. This will help to reduce your negative thoughts and raise your self-confidence.
These techniques work well during races but you can also use them to psyche out your mates on that long Sunday ride. Just be positive, and you too could be swimming for a pint of Guinness.