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,” he says.
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 any forthcoming event. “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 is 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’."
“‘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," he says. "To increase ‘towards’ motivation, think of all the potential positive consequences from going on that ride.”