M I N D over M U S C L E
pt. 1 (of a 3 part series)
Janelle Summer Kendell, B.Kin
Mental training is for everyone. An average recreational athlete trains their body for 8-10 hours per week, but most of them don’t dedicate a single hour to training their mind.
The best athletes in any sport only differ microscopically (less than 1%) on an anatomical or physiological level. This means that among the world’s finest cyclists, there are only slight variations present in VO2 Max, heart size, lung capacity, hemoglobin and hematocrit levels, femur length, lactate buffering, and percentage of fast/slow twitch muscle fibres. If the best of the best barely differ in any of the ways measured in a physiology lab, then why are some athletes consistently able to reach their full potential, while others perpetually fall short? The key to unlocking your body’s full physiological potential resides in the roughly 3 pounds of grey and white matter in your skull. It all boils down to your mind.
During my undergrad, I became fascinated with the human brain and the immense influence it has over the body. I registered for classes on everything from cognitive neuroscience to meditation, and decided on a major in Sport Psychology. My own performance as a cyclist improved as a result of my studies, and I began to race at a higher level. As I met many other athletes in the North American cycling community, it shocked me that psychology was not a part of every training protocol – in fact, some athletes were downright opposed to hearing about “hippie stuff” like visualization or modifying thought patterns. I’m sure every one of you can bring to mind a time when your head just got in the way, and your performance suffered as a result. However, the effectiveness of mental training is backed up by years of scientific studies. For a sport as demanding and filled with suffering as cycling, mental toughness and resilience are both needed for improvement.
Mental training is for everyone. The techniques you learn in order to make it through an Ironman race are the same as the techniques you learn to complete a difficult hike, make it up a long hill, or finish your first 5k run. Regardless if you are a racer or just a recreational athlete, you can and should be adding some type of mental training to your weekly routine. In the next two newsletters, I’ll share some simple strategies (for both on and off the bike) to help you take your mind game to the next level! This is one of my favourite topics to discuss… if you have any questions, come have a coffee and chat with me the next time you’re in TCR, or send them my way via email (email@example.com)