How Enhancing Your Mind Can Give You a Performance Boost
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Increased Performance In Races and Training
In this Episode, I talk about using your mind as an internal energy force. Your mind defines all aspects of your behaviour; such as how you think, feel and interact with others. In a sport like cycling, the right mindset and high motivation can make the difference in getting the best out of yourself in any given situation.
Performance Enhancing Your Mind
There are things that distinguish great riders from others. A commonly held belief is that it’s their talent alone. Today I am presenting the argument that it’s their mindset that makes the difference and how you can tap into your own mind for better performance; specifically, using your mind as an untapped energy source that can result in increased performance. How? By enhancing your mind.
Using your mind as an internal energy force is often overlooked as it’s a very abstract idea. The truth is though, that your mind defines all aspects of our behaviour; such as how we think, feel and interact with others. In a sport like cycling, the right mindset and high motivation are both prerequisites to getting the best of yourself in any given situation, whether it be training, racing or even resting. Any attempts to boost your mind need to be moulded around specific circumstances.
Two ways you can enhance your mind.
Enhancing your mind is about:
1. Enhancing motivation
2. Developing an incremental mindset if you don’t already have one
1. Harnessing Motivation.
How can we motivate ourselves when we are in the middle of a tough training session or we don’t want to get up in the morning? First I want to talk about why you race? What drives you? Because Cycling is a sport where we talk in years rather than months. This is a lot of time on the bike. It’s a lot of time pushing your physical limits. It’s a lot of time not drinking beer on Friday and Saturday nights. What keeps you coming back? Where do you get your hunger from? What is your motivation, where does it come from?
First, let’s take a quick look at what is motivation.
Motivation is thought to be a combination of the drive within us to achieve our aims and the outside factors which affect it. With this in mind, motivation has the following two forms, intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.
External can be split into tangible rewards: Physical rewards such as medals and money and intangible rewards: Praise, recognition and achievements. External motivation revolves around rewards external to the process of participation. While internally motivated people ride because of the process that is they ride because they find cycling interesting, and enjoyable without being preoccupied with external factors. Intrinsic motivation is closely linked to the fundamental motivation to learn and acquire new skills. The building blocks, or psychological needs, that underlie intrinsic motivation are the need to determine one’s behaviour, the need to feel competent, and the need for relatedness, or to have meaningful relationships with other people.
The main difference between intrinsic motivation and self-motivation. An interesting distinction; intrinsic motivation is about enjoyment and immersion in an activity, whereas self-motivation can involve an internal pressure to perform well, which is part of personality. If you are internally motivated, which one are you? I know my cycling relates more to self-motivation rather than intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes with a complete absence of any internal or external pressure to perform well. Most people can recall a time from their childhood when they were playing a game with friends that were so enjoyable that they were entirely engrossed in what they were doing; it didn’t matter who won the game, and the time just flew by because they were having such a great time. This is more the weekend mountain bike ride than training for the sake of training.
As an exercise, it’s helpful to know what category you fit into.
Motivational Technique: How can we turn this into performance gains for training and competition?
Something to be aware of though is motivation changes over time. Asking these questions at certain points in the future my help re-align your motivation to your end game.
Ask yourself these questions:
1.Why do you race? What do you like about it? What makes you passionate about racing? What are the main reasons you participate in races?
2. More specific: When you are racing what sounds, words, images and thoughts, phrases pump you up?
3. Try and identify the situations in races where you really struggle. Write down some situations where you have motivational problems. Hills, second last lap, 30kms in an mtb marathon? Hill repeats, getting up in the cold.
Now look at your situation list and your cue word or phrase. and write down what cue word you will use in each particular situation. The idea is to call up these triggers at times when you are struggling throughout a race. Having this arsenal will hopefully drive you get over any physical or mental barriers you encounter. Just a note that this is not a miracle. It won’t make your race and easier, but it is going to help you get through the situation more effectively. Also, redo this exercise for training. I know that I struggle to get up on cold mornings, and find it hard to get gong on ergo days. So I dig into my motivation to get me through these and then I’m away.
What you believe about your minds plasticity if the key here. Your mind has the ability to hold you from reaching your potential from the way you approach your cycling. What if you could change your mindset so that the desire to train, the enjoyment of cycling, and the ability to cope effectively with setbacks, especially for those who have been turned off the joy of cycling. Carol S Dweck proposes just that.
Tell me if you fit into one of these two categories developed by Dweck?
Fixed Mindset: Where people their abilities are fixed. You have a certain amount of talent to ride a bike and that’s that. New things can be learnt but the ability cannot be changed. You have a certain amount of talent and that’s that. Turns people away from growing, cause they are more worried about what they have than getting better. Attention peaked when finding out if they were right only.
Growth Mindset: Where people believe they can change their ability over time. Through effort and learning their ability can be cultivated and developed throughout their lives. Things can be developed, increased through effort, persistence and structuring.
What mindset do you bring to cycling? Do you have a fixed mindset where you believe you can’t ride up uphills any faster? Or down hills for that matter? Or do you see everything you do training making incremental improvements over time? I’m going to get into how to change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Whichever one you believe best describes your approach to cycling stay with me because if you believe you posses a growth mindset for cycling you may have a fixed mindset in other areas of cycling, such as flexibility, or even your life, just like I am finding out now about my approach to learning French.
So how can you change from fixed to growth?
Awareness and looking at the task in a different way. So by the very fact now that you have probably or probably will figure out what mindset you approach your cycling and other things. The arenas of its existence and the alternative is enough to start chaining the way you approach your cycling. I know for me it has shifted the way I approach French lessons.
Enhancing your mind as a performance tool through harnessing your motivation at specific points during a race or training can give you a quick boost in your physical output, and checking and adjusting your mindset from fixed to growth can change your entire approach to training and open up more opportunities to get better at the sport we love.