Team GB’s cycling sports psychologist Ruth Anderson shares some techniques on how to prepare your mind for a major event and maximise your performance on race day...
Sleep on it
“Maximise your training opportunities in the lead-up to the event to assist in developing your confidence to compete,” says Anderson.
“The night before the event, check your bike and kit to make sure you are prepared for the following day. This will minimise the risk of being distracted on the day by any potential issues that could be prevented.
“Prioritise good sleeping habits so you’re alert on event day and have a clear idea in your mind on what you will need to do ahead of time to ride well.”
Rehearse the race
Athletes who run through their ride mentally ahead of an event tend to perform better, studies by French sports scientists have shown. The key is to know as much as possible about the route, and the challenges it poses.
“Imagine going through the motions, going through the gears, and form an idea in your mind of what success looks like on that course. Know where you want to be at each point. On the day itself it should almost be automatic at times, because you’ve practiced what you need to do over and over in your mind.”
Put your mind at ‘best’
“The key to a positive mindset is to pay attention to your self-talk, and be assertive in taking control of your thinking,” Anderson says.
“It’s normal to have worries or doubt your ability prior to an event. What is important is the ability to recognise a negative thought, and to then reframe the thought into something that will focus you on what you need to do to execute your plan.
“Consider what your strengths are as a rider,” Anderson stresses, “and focus on how that will assist you to ride well.”
Dodge the distractions
“To shut out distractions on the day, make sure your race plan is simple and focuses on the key skills that will help you compete. Then, if you do get distracted, you can immediately pull your thoughts back to ‘the plan’,” adds Anderson.
“One of the most effective ways to build focus prior to an event is through breathing exercises. Deep breathing calms your nerves and clears your mind, so you are focused and ready to ride well. Various apps can take you through breathing techniques, such as Relaxation HQ.”