The Mental Game

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The quickest way to get stronger is to change the emotional, rather than the physical. It’s also the hardest way.

Say it takes you 45 minutes to do a loop, and you want to shave five minutes off of that time. You think about how first you’ll ride more focused, which will already make you more efficient. You’ll push more in places where you previously haven’t really been trying as hard. That will shave off a good minute.

Then you’ll decide not to take all of those “stretch breaks.” There’s another minute or two. Lance isn’t looking so tough after all.

This elimination process leaves you now with figuring out where in the ride you’ll need to push a little harder. Is it a leg-strength issue? Is it a cardio issue? Maybe it’s technical skill or discomfort in the downhill.

This is when it’s important to be honest. Those of us who are honest are able to make necessary change. Which brings me to our Nation’s political situation…but I digress.

My weakness is cardio. It kills me to watch people pulling away from me on a climb. I absolutely despise making time on the downhill only to get caught again on the brief climbs leading to the next downhill. It’s why I took up running. Running is a much quicker way of improving cardio than biking. Running keeps my heart in shape so that when I do have the opportunity to ride, I can do a fun ride that takes me back into the woods.

So there I am on the dreadmill, trying to make my heart stronger, having a mental battle with myself on whether this really hurts or if I’m just thinking about it in the wrong way. I bait myself by saying that if I can sustain this faster pace for the next two minutes, I can slow back down to take a break on the next “few” minutes. Then I argue with myself, all while Led Zeppelin is screaming into my earbuds, that what I really need to do is realize that this new level of pain is here to stay. I shake my finger at my old self saying, “You haven’t been trying hard enough,” and “This is the new lazy.”

The girl next to me is reading a magazine while she runs. Maybe she’s told the “new” her to screw off and is instead immersed in fashion faux pas on the Red Carpet. I want to hand her a glazed donut to see if she mindlessly eats it. A cute guy steps up on the other side of me and I increase my speed, flinging a bead of sweat onto the People magazine on the other side.

That’s when I call myself on my own shit and see where laziness fits into the factor of “poor cardio.” Here I am blaming bad genes when I’m not even taking advantage of what I’ve got.

This huge flip in reality is what it takes to close the gap on those last two minutes. It can make the difference between first and third place.

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