2011 is here and you may have your training plan ready to go but does that plan incorporate mental training? Mental training and working with a Sport Psychology professional can help elevate your riding and racing so we sat down with Sport Psychology Consultant Erika Carlson to learn more:
What do Sport Psychology Consultants do?
I always begin a session with a client reviewing a recent race or ride. The purpose is to identify strengths and weaknesses. Depending on where we are in the process I am either focusing in on helping the athlete build awareness of their thinking and habits or we are fine-tuning the skills weve discussed and implemented and making sure they are working to enhance performance. My work in a session with an athlete can be broken down into 4 parts: assess, educate, apply, fine-tune.
Why would a cyclist benefit from working with a Sport Psychology Consultant?
The best way to describe the benefit of working with a Sport Psychology Consultant is for technical, physical and tactical training insurance. Cyclists spend hours and hours developing the physical fitness to perform in a race or ride. It only takes few minutes of negative thinking and negative emotions to get dropped. Cyclists who are looking to step up their mental game can relate to times when theyve had their best rides. Best rides tend to have seamless execution, low thinking, and a sense of confidence both physical and emotional. Contrast that with worst rides when negative thinking takes over, your emotions take a dive, and your body soon follows. Dropped. Getting a grasp on your mental skills helps athletes maintain productive thinking, so your body maintains efficient performance, and you are in control of the ride.
What types of things do you work on with cyclists?
Pre-race preparation: This is often the biggest source of confidence for cyclists. Knowing youve put in the hours, completed the intervals, have your nutrition dialed in. When the prep work is complete, then its all about think, feel, ride.
With cyclists specifically, self-talk is king. There is a lot of time to think-both in training and competing. We work on how to recognize negative self-talk when it starts, nip it in the bud and refocus thinking in a more effective direction.
A lot of people are talking about New Year’s resolutions this time of year. What’s the difference between a New Year’s resolution and goal?
I would say the biggest difference between a resolution and a goal is specificity. My clients goals have thorough strategic plans that begin with, Whats your cycling dream? and finish up with, Whats your (very specific) goal for training today? Once you complete that training ride, review, evaluate and reset for tomorrow. Repeat. A good goal plan will get your through all the ups and downs of the season. Resolutions notoriously die out within weeks of the New Year simply because of the lack of a specific plan of HOW to achieve the desired outcome.
What’s the biggest mistake you see athletes make with regard to goal setting?
The most common mistake I see with goal setting is stating, Im going to do my best or try my hardest. These are obviously good concepts but they lack definition and any way to measure execution. A better approach is to get more specific. For example, I will complete 3 intervals and maintain the same heart rate (or power output) on interval 2 and 3 as I did on 1. This goal is specific, can be measured, and is adjustable (if needed). Now your goal is set to be a great source of confidence and a means for tracking your progress.
Do you think it is important for cyclists to work with a Sport Psychology professional who is familiar with the sport of cycling?
Working with a Sport Psychology professional who is knowledgeable about cycling does have some advantages. Its easier for the professional and the cyclist to speak the same language. The professional likely has some insight into the inherent challenges and common mental mistakes in cycling and the common ground can also put the client at ease. That said, a competent Sport Psychology professional can work in a multitude of sports, whether they have personal experience with the sport or not.
For more information, visit: www.erikacarlsonsports.com