Zwift provides a great space for training on the bike. It is indoors so the rider does not have to worry about weather, pot holes, vehicles, or other items completely out of their control. It simply takes all of the environmental variables out of the training and allows the rider to focus entirely on technique. Cadence, efficient stroke patterns, nutrition, and even strategic positioning in racing are a few technical examples of physical technique work.
However, what about the mental aspect of cycling? As a mental skills trainer, I have found Zwift to be a unique tool to help athletes deliberately train their mental game In the first installment of this mental training techniques series, we use Zwift to utilize the “body check”. This is used to become more aware of your physical form as well as your mental state.
As an overview, the mental skills include the following 5 domains: Emotional control, focus & concentration, self-talk, imagery, and pre-performance priming/routine. Each of these skills play a critical role in optimizing athletic performance potential within athletics. Just like each physical skill (e.g climbing or sprints) within cycling has a variety of techniques, so do the mental skills. Today we dive into a technique to help train body awareness.
The Body/Mind Check – Where you at?
The body/mind check is a technique that I like to teach endurance athletes to help create awareness over their form and mental state.
How does it work? The body/mind check is simply a quick scan of the athlete’s form, technique, and/or mental state. The athlete sets a timer to cue a body check every 10 minutes throughout a training ride, and every time the timer goes off the athlete works through their cues and fixes any issues.
Now, since we are focusing more on the mental aspects within this article, what are we talking about regarding the mental states? Well, you could be excited, motivated, and confident which is fantastic and makes for a great day of riding. You could also be fearful, negative, disengaged, distant, and all around poopy. We all know having this kind of ineffective and negative mindset does not help us, but in most cases, we don’t even know we are there… We don’t even recognize that we are hurting ourselves. That’s the whole point of the body/mind check. If we find ourselves in a poopy place, we need to do something about it. But what DO we DO about it?
Quick in the moment ‘Fixes’ for a poopy mindset:
- Take a deep breath and refocus on process elements that will help you achieve what you are trying to do like technical form, proper body position, or even execution of race strategy.
- Loosen any tension you find in the upper body, take a drink, breathe, put a smile on and envision a prior event where you were able to prove your performance potential and relive it in your mind as you ride.
- Vocalize the mental state you’re in. Yell, scream, get angry and then take a drink, reset, and go again.
- Become more present by utilizing the 5 to 1 technique – Complete the following out loud: 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you feel (sense of touch), 2 things you know for certain, take 1 deep breath and reengage.
Remember, it is ok to find yourself using bad form or having a negative mindset, however, it is not ok to stay there. So, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Not only will these actions help you in the moment, they will also help train your mind and body to respond optimally over time.
So, to recap really quick.
Zwift provides a great environment to deliberately work on training the mental aspects of your riding performance. When you are working indoors, take a few training rides a week to work on body awareness through utilizing the body check. Set a timer for 10 minutes and on every alarm, check the body for proper form and the mind for optimal mindset. If you find that you’re using bad form or have an ineffective mindset, do something about it!
If you are having a hard time figuring out what to do about the mindset you find yourself in, then you might find it effective to work with a mental skills coach to help optimize your training.