Wow, more excited emails from students, then one about a blog post.

This blog post (the  number 1 thing holding you back post) could not have come at a better time! And it is so true. XC Ontario Cup #3 is on May 30 and I’ve been stressing myself out since my first preride on the weekend by telling myself that I’m not good enough to do this race. The race is combined as a Canada Cup race – so it is a lot harder than I’m used to for an Ontario Cup. I have one really weak skill in XC – log overs on a steepish climb (or on any climb depending how big the log/roots bit is). And the course is just littered with them. Steep climbs with big roots/logs. Even logs on flat ground trouble me if they are big enough (and there’s a few biggies on the course!). I constantly smack my cranks against them or have no momentum because I’m scared if I go faster, I’ll just crash harder (happened a few times before).  I spin out, stall without the momentum I need, or I just put my foot down in defeat. And to add to it – the Canada Cup start time schedule is different – so now the Senior Sport Men are in our start time too instead of later in the day. I’ve never had a pack of those fast guys on the course at the same time as me before! Combined with all the tough spots on the course…well….I’ve been telling myself all week that I can’t do this race. That I’m not good enough for a Canada Cup.

My Elite racing friend took me on a preride of the course and watched me conquer similar sections and spin out/stop on other sections. He gave me some advice on body positioning and technique but told me that my problem wasn’t the skill, it was psychological. I’m so used to telling myself that I can’t do it, that I’ve spent so much time NOT doing it. I went to the local forest yesterday for a 3 hour enduro ride where I started from scratch on the skill and worked my way up bigger and bigger logs/roots-on-hills. I can lift my front wheel better and I can now get up and over things I wasn’t getting before. It’s a start. But your blog really hit home this week! I do admit I am still nervous like heck for the race on Sunday and I’m still battling the voice of the mind!
More than my fitness or anything else! It really is true …”Fear is the mind killer” -Dune.

Thanks Gene!

Cheers
Laura

Check out this email! Andy Loves His Job Too!

It is emails like this that make me love what I do.  It feels great to have past down my coaching techniques to one of my long time riding buddies (and racing nemesis! Andy is faster and smoother than me).
Gene,
I’m still “coming down” from the excitement of attending your mountain bike skills camp. Exciting because I have been “winging it” on a mountain bike for the last 20 years. There are no more “gray areas”, it’s now black and white. I will be practicing and implementing the skills that I learned, for the rest of my mountain bike life.
I’m sure that you have heard this before, your head coach Andy W. is perfect. Besides his obvious experience he has the natural ability to pass on the essential material. His instruction was polished combined with his people skills and communication skills. When it comes to constructive criticism, I can’t think of anything that could have been improved on and have nothing to add.
This was a priceless experience that I will never forget.  I’m amazed at how much better of a rider I have already become. With your skills that I learned, I definitely accomplished my goal to become a better and safer mountain bike rider.
The camp location was a 8 hr. drive for me and well worth it.  For people that you have that might be “on the fence” about attending one of your camps, tell them that no matter what it takes (time and money), attend a skills camp ASAP. It will pay dividends every time they get on the bike.

Thanks, Rich Schmit.

The number one thing holding you back isn’t real!

Are you letting fiction hold you back?!

All the skills coaching, personal training and fitness coaching in the world will not allow us to reach our goals until we overcome this factor.  The number one factor holding you back from reaching your potential is your mind!  Specifically self-limiting beliefs.  We all have self-limiting beliefs, just some of us in areas that greatly effect achieving our most important goals and some of us are fortunate enough to have them in areas that only effect minor goals.  I hear some of my students say these self limiting beliefs out loud, “I stink at climbing!” but often we are not even aware of these beliefs, they are in our subconscious.  The interesting thing is that many times these self-limiting beliefs are completely unfounded!  That’s right, quite often the thing holding you back has no basis in reality.

Any belief that holds you back is a self-limiting belief.  When your subconscious says, “I am not good enough” that is a self limiting belief.  Sometimes they actually start out positive “I can do that well but I never will be as good as ….” but in the end they set a limit to your achievement.

They are often caused by failing at something (as you may or may not know I believe that, “failure is a nature and necessary part of the learning process” quote from Dan Millman).  For instance, a former self-limiting belief I had was that I could not do a trackstand.  One day a friend and I each tried to trackstand and I ended up falling over. For years after this when asked if I could trackstand I would reply, “no, I can not trackstand” and for years I couldn’t trackstand.  Was this limitation real?  Of course not, one day I decided I would try using baby steps (working my way from 1 second trackstands to 20-30 second trackstands) and in less than a hour I was doing 10 second trackstands!

How to do you stop this often subconscious self defeating cycle?  Step one is to identify the belief, “I am a good rider but will never be great” or the most misguided one I heard the other day, “I only weigh 140 so I don’t have the muscle mass to climb like the bigger guys” (this is misguided because in general the lighter you are the better climber you are, most great climbers are short and stick thin).  Once you have identified the belief check to find the source of the belief and see if it is real. Where did the belief come from? Does it make sense? Is there proof that the belief is true? Once you have these questions answered you can create a strategy to rid yourself of the belief.  If the belief was caused by a past failure tell yourself, the past doesn’t equal the future and practice doing the skill/section of trail that you feel you can’t do correctly.  If it has no basis in reality (your friend said, “wow you suck at descending 10 years ago”) tell yourself, “that was ten years ago, I now understand body position and vision better, my bike is way better and I have the skill to descend much better now”.  Often you will find that once you identify a self limiting belief you laugh, realize that it is preposterous and you move past it.

Don’t let fiction, fantasy or conjecture hold you back.  Attack these self limiting beliefs and achieve your best.

Mountain Bike Mental Game, Are you tough? Part 1

In mountain biking and other sports the most “talented” or “gifted” athlete is rarely the most successful. At the higher levels of competition most competitors have a similar combination of skill, talent and fitness. To out-perform competitors or simply ride your best you must be mentally tough. James E. Loehr, Ed.D, world renowned sports psychologist states, “Toughness is the ability to perform toward the upper range of your talent and skill regardless of competitive circumstances”. If you are not riding or racing to your potential it is time to get tough and work on your mountain bike mental game.

Being tough sets you for peak performance on race or ride day. Ever have your focus and confidence slip away on a race or ride day because of a previous crash, injury or the weather? How did you perform that day? My guess is you probably didn’t race up to your potential. Have you ever had a weaker and/or less skilled rider beat you or out ride you? Those are painful examples of not being tough. To have peak performance, you must reach what my snowboard coach called your “optimal performance state.” This is the level of focus, arousal, relaxation, and confidence where you perform best. Tough athletes can reach this state consistently and quickly return to it after a mistake or let down.

I consider Nicolas Vouilloz and Julie Furtado two of the toughest mountain bike racers. Nico faced very skilled competitors like Steve Peat, Nathan Rennie and Cedric Gracia. Week after week, he was able to out perform them. The same can be said for Julie Furtado. Her competitors Alison Sydor, Susan DeMattai and Paula Pezzo were all very strong riders, yet more often than not, Julie was on top of the podium. Julie and Nico didn’t simply dominate the competition by huge margins though; they won a lot of close races, had a few second and third places along with the occasional poor showing. What made them tough was their ability to be tough and come back from that rare bad race to win again.

Consistently performing at your peak like Nico and Julie is easier said than done. Life tends to send you with falls, injuries, emotional upsets and the stress of trying to train 10 to 20 hours a week and balance that with a career and a social life. Creating a healthy balance between the rigors of training and life challenges is a must if you want to get tough. Being tough requires physical strength and stamina as well as mental and emotional flexibility.

It is hard to be tough when you are exhausted. Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” He’s right—being fit, rested and ready for the challenge is very important. Most cross country racers are physically tough but some downhill racers could use improvement. Most downhill racers have trained their anaerobic system required for the five minute sprint of a typical downhill race, but they are often worn-out from the days of practice leading up to the race. To improve your ability to recover physically from training and racing be sure to develop a strong aerobic base in your training.

Controlling and using your emotions is an important element of toughness. Many different emotional states contribute to being able to perform at our best. Unfortunately, emotional stress takes away our focus and drive; emotions that have nothing to do with your competition like feeling sad because your dog passed away or feeling upset from a bad break up of a relationship can have a negative effect on your energy level. Dwelling on mistakes and negative self-talk lead to feelings of helplessness, despair and anger and put you in a less than optimal performance state. Being detached will protect you from emotional upset, but you will also miss out on the positive emotions that lead to and come from success. Emotional flexibility means being able to summon the emotions that you need to perform well while taking care of the ones that hold you back.

Can you handle the mental stress of training and competition? Mental stress can be just as tiring as the physical stress of racing or training.  The focus of riding tight singletrack, thinking about race strategy or visualizing your race can wear you out and take away from your performance. Consider the following —You are leading the point series and need to simply finish eighth or better in the final race to win the series. Thirty seconds before the start of the series final, your number one competitor (who is the previous year’s champion) says incredulously, “Oh, you’re using those tires,” and rolls his eyes. You may laugh while reading this, but it actually happened a few years ago.  What happened is a lesson in mental and emotional strength: the series leader had such a bad run that the title was lost. Being able to handle the mental stress and head games and dealing with competition is one of the toughest challenges to an athlete. In this situation the racer lacked the mental strength to control his emotions. Had the racer been tough enough to say (and believe), “of course I am using these tires, they hook up great and roll fast” the outcome would have probably been quite different.

The good news is you can get tougher. To get tougher you need to be able to handle more stress, physical, emotional and mental stress. You probably already know the training theory that by gradually increasing our physical workload combined with adequate recovery we will get stronger.  The same holds true for mental and emotional training.  Often cross country racers who do a lot of their training on the road aren’t subjecting themselves to enough of the mental stresses of trail riding to become mentally stronger.  Downhill racers have the opposite problem, riding downhill trails exposes them to a great deal of mental stress but they don’t effectively recover from the stress. One way to increase your mental toughness is to practice imagery  (visualization). Start with three, two minute imagery sessions followed by recovery (emptying your mind, reducing mental stimulation). Work your way up to three, ten minute imagery sessions while decreasing your recovery time between sessions.  Taking emotional risk through entering races and facing your fears creates stress.  Recovering from these risks strengthens your emotionally flexibility. Emotional recovery comes from having fun, laughing out loud, watching a movie or having a few beers with friends.

Mountain bike racing requires fitness, talent and skill. However, the racers who perform best are the toughest, the ones who can access and use more of their fitness, talent, and skill than their competition. Toughness is based on physical strength and endurance; it is hard to be tough when you are exhausted. The next component of toughness is being emotional flexible and in control of your emotions. A strong and resilient mental game able to handle the pressure and stress of competition is the final component of toughness. Your mental game and emotional flexibility can both be strengthened and I will focus on more ways to do this in Part 2.