Do you put yourself under stress when preparing for a race? Do you find your work stressful? Does your partner make riding stressful? I'm going to share some ways you can manage stress, calm down, and help give your performance a boost.
What is stress?
Stress is the name given to anything that depletes physical and mental energy from our body.
It is important to note that while there are many forms of stress, both physical and mental, the human body deals with stress in only one way. Every form of stress depletes energy from the human body and ultimately this leads to us feeling run down, tired, and frustrated.
Stress from training and riding is physical stress, and it depletes our energy levels by taking the calories we have consumed as fuel. If we do not replenish these calories, then we will be put under more stress as our bodies can’t physically recover. Remember, though, the body still deals with this as stress and must be managed, albeit in a different way to managing mental stress.
We manage physical stress by eating, and by stretching and mobilising our body.
This allows us to recover from the stress.
One of the best things I learned as a coach was: “Think of yourself as a prescriber of stress. You are working with the athlete to deliver stress on their body. You must then work with them on how to recover from that stress and manage the athlete prior to training by assessing how much stress they are currently under before taking them through any physical stress during their training session”.
Remember the goal is to improve performance, this does not always come from battering yourself so you can barely stand.
When looking at your energy levels, and the stress you have put your body through, take note of everything mentioned above. Then you can plan rides that are more relaxed, or intense based on how your body feels.
Everyone has a capacity to cope with mental stress. Mental stress is something a lot of athletes overlook and then might get confused as to why their performance suddenly drops without any markers of physical fatigue.
Mental stress comes from so many angles in our life:
- Blue light from phones and screens.
- Work and business.
- Family life.
- Negative energy from other people.
This stress can negatively effect your mind and there is only so much your brain will take before it goes into melt down. Riding when mentally stressed isn’t a good idea for much of the same reasons as riding when physically stressed.
Making mistakes on a trail, cars pulling out on you, something not quite right with your bike. All things that will feel exaggerated when you are stressed, not to mention the worn down feeling your body can get when your mind can no longer cope and you no longer want to be out on the bike.
Managing this mental stress is key to having a good relationship with riding.
When looking at your mental state ask yourself how you have felt and think of what will help:
For me, I spend a lot of time in the digital world and with people so switching off is a case of meditation. I like to sit and just listen to the trees blow and birds tweet. I will often stretch and throw some yoga into these routines too so I can allow my body to receive some physical therapy.
Other ways people like to relax are walks, days off social media, playing board games with kids, and just doing things that allow the mind to think about things other than cycling and work.
Stress management is key to sports performance.
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About The Author: Adam Copley
Adam is a self-employed coach based in Sheffield, UK. Alongside this he is an avid cyclist and competes in cross country mountain biking across the UK. He has raced Cyclocross during the winter and is also a huge lover of road cycling. While he's not working on his business, he is usually out on two wheels getting fitter, and enjoying the fresh air and many climbs in the peak district.