In 2021, Veloforte ambassador Kate Strong simultaneously took three world records for the furthest distance travelled on a static cycle in 1 hour, 12 hours and 24 hours. Here Kate explores an undervalued part of our training: mindset.
Find Kate’s blog on fuelling a World Record attempt here.
One aspect of training that we can’t see and is often under-valued is managing our mental health and resilience: Our mindset.
Sport and physical activity puts us under stress. Sometimes, we thrive and step up to reach higher levels and other times it can overwhelm us, leaving us feeling like we’re moving backwards.
The difference between a ‘disempowering stress’ mindset and an ‘empowering challenge’ mindset is the work we do to strengthen our frame of mind and prepare us for these down days.
Work with your body
I cannot avoid the days I feel that I want to give up, that my mind is screaming for me to get off the bike, that I feel that I’m going to pass out from exhaustion when I only just started my training set. I realise that I am a creature of nature, natural cycles. On some days I’m invincible and these are the days I plan a hard training session. And on other days I know I need to be more gentle with myself.
Doggedly pushing through our mental states is a short-term fix, which won’t help us in the long-run. I build in rest days for my mind to recover as much as my body. I ensure that I follow a 28 day training cycle to match — you guessed it — my menstrual cycle. And for those who don’t have the luxury of your body physically letting you know what time of the month it is, you still have signs. Note down when you feel more lethargic and unmotivated, as well as when you’re bouncing out of bed and feel supercharged. This is your natural pattern that you can use to your training advantage.
But following my natural rhythms alone doesn’t fully prepare me for sitting on a bike and peddling for 24 hours straight!
Below are some techniques that I use to stay focused, and push through the negative self-talk and pain barrier:
If you can’t visualise it, you won’t do it
For months leading up to my event, just before going to sleep, I would imagine event day. With my eyes closed, I’d imagine my alarm waking me, getting out of bed feeling calm, eating my breakfast and arriving at the event. I’d imagine how I would feel when the start bell sounds. I’d watch the clock’s arms move round and round the face and imagine myself screaming with joy and relief at the end of the 24 hours.
Every night I repeated this, imagining seeing my mileage growing from 200 miles to 300, to 400...
Thanks to this, on event day I felt calm, empowered and focused on giving the record my best attempt.
Just for today
I ‘borrowed’ this philosophy from Reiki Master training. When our challenges are large, such as running a marathon or cycling 400 miles, it’s important to focus on the first step (or pedal), rather than keep staring at the enormous task lying in front of us.
When we set a goal for a new PB or a new distance, it’s impossible to be ready for it immediately, we need time to train and grow into our new level of fitness.
When I initially started training for the record, I could feel myself getting concerned about how far away I was from the target: I was ‘only’ cycling for 30 minutes three times a week, but I knew I needed to push hard for a whole day. I felt I was too far away from my goal and felt disconnected and dejected in my fitness.
So I chose to let go of the end target and focus on what I needed to do. Today. Today, my target is to cycle for 45 minutes, and this is what I focus on.
Tomorrow, I will focus on what I need then, but I don’t need to worry or concern myself about that just yet.
Forgive, acknowledge and grow
Performance-driven people like me (and probably you) are tough critics! We rarely pause to congratulate ourselves on what we’ve accomplished and are quick to remember our faults and failings.
To let go of this debilitating way of treating ourselves, I introduced a Sunday review, where I would sit down at the end of the week and review my performance:
- What did I do well?
- What could I do better?
- What one change can I make to ensure I do more of what I want, and less of what I don’t want?
These three non-judgemental questions provided encouragement and created space to learn without toxic self-criticism.
The devil is in the detail
Our mindset is fed by our thoughts and words we use.
Aiming towards a large challenge is like holding up a magnifying glass to how we operate every day.
If we regularly use words that are critical or disempowering, we will accelerate our mindset from being empowered to becoming stressed.
Take time to consider your everyday language. Do you use exaggerating phrases such as “I’m drowning in work”, and “training is killing me”?
Also, try to shift your default responses to optimistic, rather than pessimistic. Are you “not too bad”, or “pretty good”?
Like everything, shifting to a more positive mindset takes practice. These small language changes do make a significant difference in how you embrace stressful situations and your training and performance will only benefit.
Stock up on the naturally powerful Veloforte nutrition that powered Kate’s triple World Record.