Mind over matter: Attitudes in sports and cycling

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Mind over matter: Attitudes in sports and cycling

Mind over matter: Attitudes in sports and cycling

Cycling as a hobby is something almost anyone can take up, from toddlers to the elderly, and of course there are adapted cycles for all kinds of disabilities too.

The health benefits are broad and well researched, ranging from weight loss and core muscle strength right through to de-stressing and achieving a generally calmer state of mind.

But when it comes to competition, your mental state becomes a cause, not an effect, and adopting the right attitude can have a big impact on your overall race time.

What qualities does it take to reach your peak? As you might imagine, it's a combination of factors, and you'll need to find the right balance to be at your best.

Focus

Your concentration levels are a major contributor to success - whether it's the intense focus needed for a sprint race, or the relentless concentration of a long-distance circuit or road route, you need to have your mind fixed on the task at hand throughout.

Cycling itself can help to build your attention span for this, and the more you practice, the more you will learn to shut out distractions - both on the road and from life in general - and pay attention to what you are doing and where you are going.

When cycling on the open road, you'll also need to look out for risks from other traffic, although under race conditions this threat should be removed or at least carefully managed, making it easier to concentrate for even longer.

Endurance

Over a long distance, you're going to hurt, and even the most committed of athletes must overcome the urge to simply stop.

Again, stamina and endurance are something you can build throughout your training, covering longer distances and more challenging terrain as your experience level grows.

In the run-up to an event, it's also crucial to stay in the saddle - don't overdo it, by any means, but on the days when you're sorely tempted to skip training, getting out there can help you to understand how to find your second wind during the race itself.

Competitive Spirit

Much of the advice about your mental state during competition focuses on you as an individual - ignoring your agonised muscles, focusing on the finish line, and so on.

But it's equally important to have an appetite to win, and that means beating everyone else in the field, something that many people simply don't have the drive to do.

Learn to view your competitors purely as opponents - even if you are friendly once you're out of the saddle - and be comfortable with how you will react if you see a nasty fall ahead of you on the track or road.

Professional races should have support vehicles and medical crews to deal with such incidents, but you'll need to be able to put it out of your mind until the race is over, too.

And when you get the home straight in your sights, be ready to give every last ounce of strength to your sprint finish - in an evenly matched race, it could make the difference between a gold medal, and missing out on a podium position completely.