I’m bringing all of you cyclists out there some special videos during the 2011 Tour de France from my new YouTube channel. These first videos will be on topics specific to mental skills training for cyclists. Each topic relates the challenges that these pro cyclists will face in the tour, but also the challenges that you may face as a rider as well. The first topic is all about crashes. When you race your bike at a competitive level, crashes are an inevitable risk that you take as part of your sport. If you’ve been watching this year’s Tour de France, you’ve already seen several crashes throughout the first few stages. When you’re a pro and your job is to race, you might be in the position of having to shake it off, get back on your bike, and continue riding in the tour – even with injuries. But jumping back on the bike isn’t always an option after a crash. For many people, the physical wounds heal much faster than the mental ones. It can take some time to regain your confidence and get back onto the bike feeling just as aggressive as you were before your crash. Regaining your confidence after a crash can take some deliberate work. Here is a rundown of the three tips you will hear about in the Mental Skills Minute video:
- Start Small: Once you are healed from your injury and get back on your bike, you want to be deliberate about how you build your confidence back up. Start with the things that produce the least amount of anxiety and work up to the ones that produce the most. For example, if your crash happened on a descent and now you find yourself feeling nervous about descending – start out with short descents that you know really well and build your confidence there. Don’t worry about how strong and confident you used to feel – just focus on building your confidence from where you are right now and work up from there.
- Relax Your Mind: Your stress response can be triggered by the thoughts in your mind. If you are nervous about being back on your bike, your thoughts can literally create tension in your body. Tension in your body can impact how strong and confident you feel on your bike. You need to relax your mind so you can relax your body. Come up with a mantra – something you can say to yourself that will trigger how you want to feel. As you’re descending, you can help reduce the tension in your body by repeating words like “relax”, “smooth”, “strong”. Be sure the thoughts in your mind contribute to helping you feel confidence, not anxious.
- Relax Your Body: Physical tension will affect your coordination and balance on the bike. If you’re nervous about crashing, those nerves transfer to tension in your body and make you feel even more nervous because it will make you feel out of control on the bike. You need to work on relaxing your body so you aren’t contributing to that physical tension. The most important thing you can do to help with this is to make sure you’re breathing. If you’re holding your breath, you increase the anxiety you feel and increase the tension in your body. Make sure you’re breathing as you approach that descent, head into the turn, get swarmed – or any other situation that gets the butterflies going
If you’re having trouble getting back to that same confident and aggressive rider you were before your crash – you may need some expert support to help you get there. Thinking about quitting can be a natural consequence of experiencing an injury due to a crash. Whether you choose to continue is up to you, but if you are motivated to continue to ride or race and you’re just having trouble getting your head back in it – get in touch with a mental skills coach and get the skills and support you need to get back on the bike. That’s what we’re here for!