Find Your Focus
Keeping your focus can be the difference between being a good rider or a great one; achieving your target time in a sportive or not. “You may have all the ability in the world but if you struggle to channel and maintain focus you might fall short of the results you deserve,” says Ken Way, sports psychologist and author of Mental Mastery. Way has three top tips for blocking out distractions so that you can hone your focus and become a better cyclist.
Technique 1: Cycling mantra
“Long-distance runners often have words or phrases that they repeat to themselves in order to cope with particularly difficult sections of their race or journey,” says Way. “For example, marathon runners may deflect some of the negative impact of ‘the wall’ by internally reciting a mantra. You can take advantage of this for moments when the going gets tough or to help bring your focus to where you want it.” For example, Way suggests that you could repeat ‘nice and easy – pedalling freely’, or ‘energy flowing, easy going’ to yourself. “You’ll find it comes quite naturally to time these to your pedal cadence,” says Way.
Technique 2: Olympic visualisation
Think of four great rides you’ve had when you’ve been on your bike and performed at your best. “For each memory create a 20- to 30-second mental video, linking them seamlessly together to form a two-minute ‘film’ of your cycling highlights,” says Way.
This can then be used in preparation for the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100. “You can customise it to create a visualisation tailored to your specific event or goal by imagining 20 to 30 seconds of footage of the ride you’re about to undertake, focusing on what you want to achieve.” Add this to the end of one of your 30-second videos and run the footage several times.
“In the run-up to an event I recommend playing it three times a day – morning, noon and night,” advises Way. “This lets your unconscious mind know what you’re expecting from it!”
Technique 3: Motivation
“Whenever you go for a ride, be it a race or just for fun, there are motivating factors at play,” says Way. “And these factors can be split into two basic types of motivation – both of which can be enhanced to help increase focus. “These types are ‘towards’ and ‘away from’,” says Way. “‘Towards’ is when we’re motivated to achieve something – be that enjoyment, fun, to beat our personal best or to get fitter. ‘Away from’ is when we’re motivated to avoid things, for example coming below a certain position in a race or becoming unfit.”
According to Way, recognising whether the underlying motivation of your need to go for a particular ride is ‘towards’ or ‘away from’ enables you to increase motivation and thereby add to your level of focus. “To increase ‘away from’ motivation, simply think about how bad things will be if you don’t go for that ride – exaggerate the negative implications. To increase ‘towards’ motivation, think of all the potential positive consequences from going on that ride.”
Focus = happiness
Practising these three techniques could make you more content too, according to the latest research from the US. A study conducted via an iPhone app has found that people are distracted 47 per cent of the time. Psychologists from Harvard University enlisted 2500 participants who were contacted at least once a day and asked how they were feeling, what they were doing and whether they were thinking about something else. If their answer to the third question was ‘yes’, they were then asked if they were thinking about something pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.
The study found that on average people’s minds wandered 46.7 per cent of the time and in every activity at least 30 per cent of the time, except when people were having sex. It also found that people were less happy when they were distracted, even when thinking about something pleasant. So stay focused and be happier.
|Discover more great features on every aspect of cycling and get ahead of the pack with a subscription to Cycling Plus magazine. Prudential RideLondon participants can click here for an exclusive offer.