Mind Prep: Working with the ‘Breathe’
So, we all know breathing technique can help with performance.
When we talk of training for a race or event, we mean preparing the body for peak physical fitness, but have you ever also thought of training the mind?
Working with the ‘breathe’ not only helps us with our mind / body connection, but when we’re sitting on the bike we feel connected, focused and mentally prepared. This month Lexie Williamson, Yoga Sports Science instructor, fitness writer and author of Yoga for Cyclists, explains how a simple mind trick can give you the edge:
Bradley Wiggins repeated the mantra ‘cool and calm’ during the 2012 Olympics in order to transform himself into what he described as a ‘ruthless robot’. Wiggins was using this mental technique to suppress his ‘chimp’ or emotional side.
The Buddhists have a similar phrase – monkey mind – to describe the natural human state of mind as restless and unsettled.
Under pressure, this mind frame can cause athletes to choke or make impulsive, irrational decisions. It’s a hindrance in a tough endurance sport like cycling where a cool head is required to cope with both other cyclists and sheer physical exertion.
So, what is the ideal cycling mindset? Confident, concentrated, motivated and flexible.
A good mental training technique will make this happen by slowing the barrage of thoughts long enough so the brain can shut up and think clearly. It then implants a single, powerful and positive thought to drown out those niggling, negative ones.
Here are just two techniques to try from Yoga for Cyclists: The 1-10 Technique and The Steam Train.
1) The 1-10 Technique
A simple but effective way to maintain concentration is to count pedal strokes. Begin with the right foot and count up to 10. Switch immediately to the left and repeat the 1-10 count. Carry on, keeping continual and steady rhythm. This technique has the added benefit of maintaining pace and aiding pedalling efficiency by ensuring you are applying equal force to both legs.
2) The Steam Train.
The Steam Train is half visualisation / half breathing technique. Imagine your body as a single mechanical unit such as a train or some other machine.
Your legs are the pistons and you’re expelling steam through pursed lips. Exhaling slowly like this avoids inefficient panting and speeds up recovery after a hill climb.
You can also breathe in ‘energy’ and exhale ‘lactic acid’ – use your imagination!
We follow Lexie on Twitter @Cycle/Run/Yoga, and check out www.pulseyoga.co.uk