Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Over the last few days I've been writing about my double century training plan and so far I've covered (1) the on-the-bike plan, (2) the nutrition plan, and (3) the rest plan. Today I'd like to cover the fourth and final part of my plan, namely, growing in mental toughness. Here are the five things I have articulated this to mean:
1. Set Good Goals: The idea here is to set goals that are at once realistic but challenging. This combination of "I can do this but it's going to be hard" tends to help the mind focus, plan, and execute well.
2. Visualize the Ride: At least once per week I plan to sit or lay down in a quiet place, close my eyes, and visualize the ride as thoroughly and vividly as I can. I will think through the days before the ride, the morning of the ride, the drive to the start, the preparation before the start, the start itself, the first 30 minutes, the rest stops, potential problems such as flat tires or wrecks, how to handle high and low energy moments, how to push through pain and fatigue, and crossing the finish line. I have practiced visualization for about 10 years now, at least for bigger and more challenging events, and I have found that it enhances performance and the mental ability to manage the ride well. As the old saying goes, "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." So I strive to prepare mentally as well as I can.
3. Strengthen Mental Skills on Training Rides: I don't only visualize the big ride itself but I also use my weekly endurance rides to practice the art. I set attainable goals, visualize achieving those goals, and then strive to execute the plan on the day of the ride. This practice helps me identify mental strengths and weaknesses and plan to address both.
4. Stick to the Plan: Having set good goals, visualized well, and strengthened both my plan and mental toughness on training rides, I now apply all of these things to their fullest and execute on the big day. I strive to enjoy the highs, deal with the lows, push through the pain and achieve my goals. I set my mind toward success and I don’t let circumstances determine whether or not I do, except when they're extraordinary and beyond my control (e.g., a major mechanical breakdown or a serious injury). When problems arise during the ride I try not to be discouraged but rather set my mind to finding solutions. The visualization exercises help with this quite a bit because I have already thought through most of the problems that could arise and how to deal with them. This helps me to remain calm and focused in the moment and to maintain the attitude that I will not quit unless I absolutely must.
5. Push through the Pain and Fatigue: I have been riding for over ten years now and I've discovered that all the planning in the world doesn't prepare a person to deal with the unusual pain and fatigue of pushing beyond one's previous limits. But what separates the men from the boys, if you will, is the ability to stretch toward a goal despite the difficulties involved. So again, I try very hard to make up my mind that I will succeed, that I will eventually get a second or third or fourth wind, and that I must not quite no matter what! I often think to myself, "Slow down if you must, rest if you must, but do not quit! I may not get there as fast as others but I will get there if I don't give up."
Well, there's my plan for developing and maintaining mental toughness. Over the next few days I will go back now and add details to some of what I've written and then I'll close this series of blogs by posting my plan summary.