Cycling is one of the best sports for developing your mind as well as your body. But it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why I’ve put together three quick tips that will help you get improve quickly.
1. Train with a power meter
2. Focus on the present moment
I used to think of “being in the moment” as some hippie-dippie, New Age concept. But being in the moment actually makes a big difference in how well you perform during cycling races. In fact, researchers at the University of Illinois found that elite cyclists spent 46% of their time in the “here and now” compared to 34% for recreational riders. So how can you train your mind to be in the moment? Practice mindfulness. Meditation. Or yoga. These are all great ways to cultivate present-moment awareness. When you’re in the moment, your brain is more focused, and you process information better. This leads to better performance on the bike.
Being in the present is an active state. One that you enter when you choose to focus on what’s happening right now. And then actively work to be in the present whenever possible. The more you practice being in the present, the easier it gets. And the faster you can go during your rides.
How do you stay motivated while training for cycling? Find something you love. Research shows that people who enjoy what they’re doing are more likely to stick with the activity over time. Learn to love the feeling of being on your bike. Find strength in knowing that you're getting fitter every week. That said, motivation doesn’t just come from within. It also comes from external sources such as a local cycling club.
3. Train with a group
During my first cycling season, I trained by myself. I’d ride my bike to work, then head home and train some more. Rinse and repeat. This worked OK for a while.
But after about 4 months of training this way, I plateaued. My fitness didn’t improve as quickly as it had when I was a kid. Then, one day, I decided to join a cycling club.
This completely changed my cycling experience. The best part? The other cyclists in the group would sometimes show up an hour before class starts so we could warm up together. That way, we didn’t waste any time getting into our rides. Today, I train with a group of friends once or twice per week. It’s made a huge difference in how I feel on the bike, and how much faster I improve.
In general, people who train with a group improve 50% more than those who train alone. And the benefits don’t stop there. Groups of athletes perform better than individuals. For example, a study of runners participating in the 1970 Boston Marathon found that the fastest men improved their times by 1:07 when they trained with a partner versus training alone. And the study concluded that “the effects of training in pairs are additive.” What does this mean? Simply put, if you have a workout partner, you can push yourself harder than you would if you were working out alone. Plus, you’ll have someone to help you recover faster as well. Groups also improve motivation. A study of triathletes found that participants who trained with a partner were 60% more likely to finish a race compared to those who trained alone.
In conclusion, training with others will give you a huge advantage. So don’t try to do it all by yourself. Have a cycling computer to track your progress. Join a cycling club. Or find a few other people who want to get into cycling and ride with them. It will change your life. But what if you can only afford to train by yourself? That’s OK. You can still train with a group in your mind. For example, you can think about all the people you are training with in your head. And the way they are helping you. And the way you are helping them. This will give you the same benefits of training with a partner without any of the costs. It's also a great way to practice mindfulness on your bicycle.