Sunday, 30 October 2011

What State are you in?

My Route Today - Split into Sections
Last week, I met a really interesting guy at a conference I was hosting, his name is David Yeoman.  David is a behavioural and language strategist, working with elite sportspeople and business leaders, believing that your "state" - that is your mental state -  thoughts, feelings and actions, can be adjusted at any time, through words and behaviour.  David talked about being able to define a number of states that you trigger based upon circumstances.  Have a look at his website here.

Setting out on a 50m hilly ride today, I took some time to reflect on the things I'd heard from him when he spoke and thought how this applied to my ride.  For a lot of new cyclists, the thought of hills, strikes fear to their very core.  It's understandable, I've been there.  Hills hurt, they need a lot of effort, they test you and can be de-motivating if you have to get off.  Best avoided in favour of a flat route?  No.

To really enjoy road cycling, you need to turn hills into a "positive" in your mind, not to be avoided, but embraced as part of your overall enjoyment of being out on the road.  Thinking about my "state" when going up some testing short and sharp climbs today, here's where I was at: -

Hill Climbing State
  • Focused on pedalling rhythm and cadence consistency.
  • Focused on consistent and regular breathing to keep my heart rate under control.
  • Focused on breaking the climb up into various little staging posts of success.
  • Focused on the immediate piece of road ahead, more looking down than up.
  • Hands on the top of the bars to open the chest up.
  • Focused on being relaxed, arms bent.
Major positive outcome.  By getting to the top of the climb I can enjoy the descent at the top and some great views.  

Descending State

  • Focused on controlling the bike, hands on the drops and brakes.
  • Focused on recovering my heart rate.
  • Focused on the longer road ahead, looking up and in the distance to identify potential points of concern (potholes, road debris, corners).
  • Focussed on keeping the bike balanced, weight centre, ready to shift weight if needed for cornering.
  • Focussed on being alert, ready to quickly adapt to a changing situation.
Major positive outcome.  All that effort going up that hill has allowed me to enjoy this exhilarating descent.

So, in other words, I now view hills as a way of accessing great descents, which I really enjoy.  Being 15 stone, I can descend more quickly than most, gravity is on my side going down, less going up, where it works against me.  So, some additional principles that I keep in my head.

  • My objective is to get up the hill without stopping, I'm never going to be the quickest.
  • I can't compete with a 24 year old or someone who is 10 stone in weight.
  • I love descending, so get to the top on my terms, to enjoy the thrill of the other side.
So, accepting that I'm not Robert Millar in the mountains, allows me to approach the hill on my terms.  By changing my "state" to my "hill climbing state" I can ready myself mentally for the incline and ultimately the descent, where I get my payoff.

One other tip is to have a look at the proposed route if you can and break it up in your mind.  You can see from todays route profile that I mentally had it as four parts, a warm up with a long drag, two hard bits in the middle, a hard bit at the end followed by a long descent home to look forward to.  By doing this, you can mentally tick off elements of the ride as you achieve them, resulting in a feeling of satisfaction and increasing motivation to carry on.

Hills needn't be your nemesis, they are an essential component of building your strength, technique and fitness.  See them positively, build up slowly and you will soon master them.

1 comment:

  1. I'm much happier climbing than descending. Over the past year I have dropped 15 lbs to get my weight to 132 lbs. The weight loss and lots of climbing rides has helped significantly. As you mentioned Phil maintaining a consistent cadence and keeping your heart rate at a reasonable level is key. And not looking at the 20% grade that is approaching you also helps!!!