As cyclists our minds go something like this before a ride, “Where are my shoes? Are my tires aired up? Do I have time for this? Is my Garmin charged? What will I cook for dinner? Do the kids need to be picked up? What was I looking for again?”
We go from one activity (work) to another (cycling) and we never stop to check in with our mind and body. Without taming the mind we may find it hard to perform or even enjoy the ride.
Riding is your time to be present, engaged, and human – while balancing the mind and body. Your Breath is life, oxygen is healthy and you are purifying your organs, nervous system, and mind when you ride. Recognize and be present.
Use these basic principles to train your mind. When you apply mindfulness to cycling, cycling becomes a tool that brings relaxation and vitality. Allow your mind and body to work together and you will feel alive and strong on and off the bike.
Paying attention is developing body awareness. Concentrate on your breathing, cadence, how your shoulders and arms feel. If you feel any tense areas (clenching hands to the bars or tight shoulders), relax. But also think about potential causes of the tension. Is it cycling-related (knee pain from an incorrect saddle height), or is it something in your life (you’ve been working 12 hour days)? Follow your breath, focus on your breath as you inhale and exhale. Notice how your breathing changes as you sprint or climb a hill. Take note of your pedaling as your legs rise and fall with each movement.
Stay Calm and Positive
Research has linked a positive outlook to better performance. Avoiding negative self-talk is a key principle of mindfulness. Thoughts such as “I want to stop right now, I wish this was over, this hill is too steep, I can’t go that fast,” are just thoughts and don’t have to be reality. Be aware of using negative words like can’t, don’t, won’t.
Like I say in my manifesto, pain is often an opportunity to grow. Monster climbs, bad weather, and monotonous flat sections can turn an enjoyable ride into a frustrating one—if you allow them to. Every ride has challenges and it’s up to you to be brave and accept your ‘path.’ Don’t try to ignore the challenge of a sprint, a steep hill or the intervals in your training plan; ride through and acknowledge where you are in your ride and training.
Enjoy the Ride
Cyclists tend to be dissatisfied—with how fast they are, with how far they are able to go, and with who is beating them on Strava. While it’s important to improve, you also need to accept the rider you are at this moment. While riding think about all the good you are doing today—building endurance, making endorphins, taking time for you! Appreciate that cycling helps create a healthy self-identity even in the middle of a chaotic life.