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Visualisation, Concentration and Focus—Mental Training Techniques for Cyclists

Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. He is also a keen cyclist and a lover of the Derbyshire Dales and Peak District.

Mental Training Techniques for Cyclists to Improve Performance

Every cyclist has room for improvement. Usually, they consider that improvement should be in a physical sense through riding their bike more. However many cyclists can improve their performance in terms of visualisation, focus and concentration.

We often fail to realise the immense effect that mental training can have on a cyclist. Your mind has to be able to cope with the heavy training demands, multiple variable race situations and environmental changes that can negatively affect a rider and their preparation for peak performance.

Cycling events all have their own mental constraints.

  • In road races, you question whether you have the strength remaining in your legs for the sprint for the win.
  • On the track, you might question whether you can risk it all in the final mad dash in the keirin.
  • In a Cyclocross race, can you stay mentally focused and retain concentration now it has started pouring rain? The course is beginning to be severely cut up and you're not using mud-specific tyres—how will you cope?
  • In time trials can you keep pushing a huge gear at a high cadence despite feeling like you can give no more effort?

Keep reading to find out simple ways you can improve your mental focus for cycle racing for both riders and studio cycling instructors to introduce into their classes.

Time trials: the ultimate rider test. Man against the clock, where mental toughness can lead to improved cycling performance.

Time trials: the ultimate rider test. Man against the clock, where mental toughness can lead to improved cycling performance.

Developing a Strong Mind for Cycling

Visualisation training for cyclists has to address all of the senses (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and olfactory) and should really be done off the bike initially before migration to bike training.

The ironic thing is that most cyclists have imagined themselves leading the Tour De France Peloton up to the top of L'Alpe D'Huez or taking the win on the Champs Elysees in Paris. Through further development of these images, a rider can increase their focus and concentration to improve their race-day performance.

Visualization for road cycling is a very small part of cycling sports psychology as there are so many situations that can occur within a race. It is near impossible to visualize them all, however, it is a great initial technique to integrate into indoor workouts and gives insight into the further possibilities of sports psychology.

As soon as doubt starts to creep in you lose your mental focus and are less likely to succeed.

As soon as doubt starts to creep in you lose your mental focus and are less likely to succeed.

Focus and Visualisation for Indoor Cycling

Whether you're sat on the turbo trainer (or wind trainer) in your garage, spare room or taking part in a spin cycling class. Whilst spinning your legs on the bike take yourself through these steps.

This is also a great visualisation process to use and integrate into class structure for studio spin instructors.

Step 1

While spinning steadily close your eyes and work on cutting out any distractions from your mind.

Step 2

Visualise a familiar cycling scenario that has meaning to you. Whether it's the commute to work, training on local roads, sitting on your time trial bike during your favourite TT, or steadily climbing an iconic mountain.

Step 3

Stay positive throughout your visualization. Feel the sun on your back, with your legs strong and leading you through your event. See yourself achieving your goal.

Step 4

Focus on a particular portion of your visualisation as a goal. Focus on the top of the climb approaching or try to see the finish line.

If you're doing this on your own at first, try to time your visualization as with practice you should be able to improve how long you can perform.

As a spin instructor you could work to a set timeframe—maybe just a single song, Make sure it's a relatively relaxing track and not jumpy which might take away focus and concentration of the participant.

Addressing the Senses During Cycling Training

Everyone has different sensory aspects they tend to notice more. No one is the same in this regard. Here are some things to consider when working on addressing your senses during training.

Visual

See the road both in front of you in your mind. Pick out the potholes, the parts of smooth tarmac and the scenery as it changes around you.

Kinaesthetic

Feelings are often very present in cyclists. Feel how hard your legs are working—do they feel heavy? You can also sense the breeze through your hair and the warmth of the sun on your arms and neck?

Auditory

Listen for sounds around you. Are there any birds chirping on the lovely spring morning you decided was worthy of a ride? Listen out for the buzz of your tyre as it connects and hums along the road. You might also try to feel this.

Smell

Can you smell the fresh manure on the farmers' fields, or maybe more satisfyingly, the freshly cut grass?

Taste

Can you taste the saltiness of the sweat in your mouth? Or perhaps, the flavour of your sports drink?

By using the techniques above, a cyclist should be able to begin to open their mind to the possibilities mental training can provide. These steps should help a rider maintain a relaxed position on their bike despite increased pressure.

Enjoy your next ride and please feel free to leave comments at the bottom of the page.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

Liam Hallam (author) from Nottingham UK on June 21, 2012:

Nice one INFjay. I hope you enjoyed the ToC. It looks a great race. Thanks for your feedback and good luck with your cycling

Jay Manriquez from Santa Rosa, California on June 20, 2012:

Your advice has worked well for me when cycling or running. I even used visualization during the recent Tour of California stage 1, where I rode a stationary bike at one of the exhibits for 60 seconds! (what, you didn't think I was a rider in the Tour of Ca? - Although I've even visualized that too). I especially appreciate improving visualization by focusing on the five senses. Thanks.

Liam Hallam (author) from Nottingham UK on June 20, 2012:

Thanks Tom. I'm glad this has helped you. I've personally found that visualisation is a great tool to take away the rigid and often industrial environment of a spin class so good luck with your future sessions

Tom on June 20, 2012:

Reading this is quite helpful for me as a spin instructor. in the past ive taken my class through portions of the entire class up from cape point to table mountain in south africa or a zig zag path to mucho pichu. but this has helped me improve. thanks

Tom H - Billericay UK

Liam Hallam (author) from Nottingham UK on November 11, 2011:

Thanks kitty for your feedback. cf

Kitty Fields from Summerland on November 08, 2011:

Great stuff on cycling, yet again! Your hubs are so informative and dead on. Unfortunately, I don't bicycle but I'm thinking about taking it up in the future!