Its all in the mind!
Mental preparation for peak performance is often under estimated, it will be the factor that gets one rider across the line in front of another when all else is equal. Many riders have problems motivating themselves for their sport. On the start line they may be racked by guilt that they should have done that extra training, doubting their performance in the race even before they have started, having low self belief and feelings that they are not good enough to finish etc are all too common.
Simple strategies can be used to improve mental preparation of athletes for racing and training. The most simple is to have a goal that is achievable, and believe that you can achieve it in the time frame available. Then place this together with a training programme with manageable steps to achieving that goal, will help to build the riders confidence within the training programme improving their self-belief in themselves. Once they feel that they can effectively cover the training and distance associated with the race mental preparation for the race itself can then take place.
Mental visualisation techniques can be used to focus the riders mind on the race, tactics and unexpected occurrences that are likely to affect the race, preparing the rider for all eventualities that may occur. This can be practiced many months in advance of the event once the rider gets into the situation they will be more relaxed as they may feel that they have been here many times before. If a rider is racked with self doubt about their ability a useful practice can be the use of positive self-talk to help to eliminate negative thoughts. This can be used at anytime whilst racing, training, or in general life.
During the preparation period for the event the rider should practice techniques to either increase or decrease mental arousal to help them attain the optimal mental state for the race. Lowering anxiety on the star line and enabling the rider to focus on tactic for the race.
The rider must practice mental strategies prior to the goal race to allow them to feel comfortable with their preparation on race day. This should include a pre-event plan which takes the rider through a series of steps from the day before the race to the race start. Again practiced and refined many times prior to the goal event.
During the event the rider should use the tactics and strategies practiced in their ‘training’ events helping to lower anxiety during the race. Their also should be specific goals for different segments of each event breaking the event down again into manageable chunks. Ensuring that even if the overall goal for the event is not reached (due to mechanical error) the rider still achieves some of the goals during it, enabling them to feel as if they are still progressing in their development as a rider.
Post event there should be an assessment of the rider’s performance and recommendations incorporated into future training and races again increasing the riders self confidence and self belief. Improving the riders position in the race and their overall enjoyment.