In cycling, there are a few situations I hear about over and over again when it comes to feeling anxious on the bike. Steep fast descents, tight technical turns, and riding in a pack are situations that can get your heart pumping and your hands sweating. During these moments, some cyclists will find themselves hitting their brakes and even deliberately drifting to the back of the pack in order to manage the anxiety that they feel in that moment. In this Mental Skills Minute I share a couple tips for working on confidence and being able to ride and race aggressively.
- It’s not always in your head. If you find that you are nervous in situations like fast descents or cornering, you might need to actually work on your physical skills as well as your mental skills. A lack of confidence isn’t always in your head. You can improve your confidence dramatically in these situation by making sure that you are proficient with your bike handling skills. Go take a clinic or even set up your own clinic. If you want to improve on these skills you need to make the time to do it.
- Focus on what is in your control. Some cyclists might feel like their skills are just fine, but they don’t trust the skills of the people riding around them. There is a difference between being aware of riders around you and being afraid of what might happen. When awareness moves to fear, you are eliciting your stress response based on something that might happen and something that is out of your control. When you find yourself in that situation, stop the thought, breathe, and choose to focus on something that is in your control.
- Relax on the bike. When you elicit your stress response, you create muscular tension in your body. An excess of muscular tension impacts your coordination and balance on your bike. Imagine getting bumped or hitting a pothole on your bike while your entire body is tense. Tension in your body transfers to tension on your bike. When you are tense, you are less likely to absorb the bumps in the road and bumps from other riders. The best thing you can do for your confidence is to breathe and relax on the bike.