What’s going on in your head as you ride your bike? While we think a lot about our skills (or lack of them), we tend to give less attention to whether our thoughts are helping or hindering us in achieving our goals. And their impact can be just as important.
A friend recently told me about a talk she went to by mountain bike legend Danny Macaskill. He rides things that most people would think unrideable, such as the death-defying ridge of the Cuillin mountains on the Isle of Skye (see video below). He said that before he rides a new challenge he visualises himself riding it successfully again and again.
Hearing that, my friend realised that she does the complete opposite. She plays a video of all the things that could possibly go wrong, going wrong!! She’s is already a strong rider, but imagine how much more fun she could have if she gave herself a more positive film to watch before she starts riding. Visualising success is something many athletes do to enhance their performance. They visualise a previous best performance, a training session that went really well, or the outcome that they would like to achieve in the next event. Of course, you don’t need to be doing death-defying tricks or sport at an elite level to benefit from this technique. It can help in all sorts of situations: psyching yourself up to cycling down a slightly steeper hill than you're used to on the road or on your mountain bike, preparing for a difficult meeting or speaking in public are just some examples. Your mind does not distinguish between reality and non-reality. That’s why, for example, I can’t watch the gory bit in films (I generally cover my face with my jumper), and why all my nerve endings tingle during moments of high suspense!
Research by the University of Chicago found that basketball players who visualised penalty shots in their mind every day for 30 days, improved nearly as much as those who practiced with the ball (23% improvement, compared to 24% for those using the ball). It's no surprise that those who didn’t practice at all showed no improvement! Come for a confidence boost session and learn how to use visualisation and other techniques to improve your mountain biking or road cycling - and to enjoy it much more.