Mountain biking is a fantastic hobby for most of us, a lifestyle for some of us, and a career for a select few of us. It is a way of keeping healthy, socialising, making friends, to be passionate about something, and most of all, a way to enjoy life. For those of us who like to compete in mountain biking, or any other sport for that matter, how much do you think your mental approach and state of mind impact your performance? For the weekend warrior, or riders who just like to ride that are reading this article, this is for you too! Having a positive, resilient, confident mindset and perspective on performance, can benefit anyone and everyone.
We all spend a lot of time training physically for sport and mountain biking which is great! However, if you are not mentally as strong as you are physically fit and prepared, when it comes to racing or other high-pressure situations (i.e. testing a new jump), how well can you really expect yourself to perform? Anxiety control and high confidence are key elements for high-pressure performances/situations (i.e.racing), and yet very few people, amateur - elite, actually train/prepare mentally for performance, through professional guidance as they do with physical training.
Peak Mental Performance Coaching (PMPC) is a company set up in order to help facilitate athletes to perform at their peak when it matters most, in high-pressure situations, when both the consequences and rewards are high. Ironically, in these circumstances, when we want to perform our best, this is also the most difficult time to perform and this happens for various reasons. For those who race, how often have you finished a race run and thought "I have ridden that track so much better in practice"; or those who make edits, got a trick dialed, then when the camera comes out, mess up? This is a very common phenomenon in sport and in general life. PMPC helps you deal with these high-pressure situations better!
When we enter a high-pressure situation our minds are much more susceptible to attack. This occurs through a heightened sense of awareness of the potential consequences / importance to do well, as well as our environment and many other aspects. This often leads to a decrease in performance because our attention shifts or narrows too much, and we focus on the wrong environmental cue's, or our nerves and anxiety get too much for us to handle and we psych ourselves up too much, meaning we ride differently to normal (tight). This leads to mistakes etc. In competition, our physical training has all been done, and the biggest factor that can affect your performance is your mindset! Within racing for example, in a heightened pressure situation our brain goes through a lot of different emotional states and thus can shift into a fight or flight mode. Because our brain tries to protect us, this often means the untrained mind switches to flight mode and we anchor on the brakes or shift to a mindset of preservation and we slow down. If we train our mind to automatically go into fight mode, we instantaneously improve performance as our focus is on riding what's in front of us to the best of our ability. There are many things that our minds have to deal with during performance and knowing what is important and training your brain to think clearly whilst being resilient to attack is key for performance.
Mental resilience in action adventure sports is potentially one of the most important mental factors due to the risks and consequences being so high. Being able to fend off all of the little gremlins of negative thoughts that enter your head in high-pressure situations, and maintaining a positive, assertive, and happy mindset will go a long way to improving and maintaining high level of performance and success in sport.
PMPC's job is to give you the tools to be able to perform in these high-pressure situations to the best of your ability. You've probably heard the saying 'get in the zone', well, in sports psychology we refer to this state of optimum performance as 'Flow'. Action adventure sports such as mountain biking are all about accessing a positive mental state of Flow. Have you ever ridden your bike (or done anything) where the task at hand felt effortless, smoother, faster or with more control than normal, where sometimes you can't even remember doing it? If so, it is likely that you have entered your Flow state! This feels great doesn't it! Sports psychology is largely to do with helping athletes access this state of Flow, offering peak performance, when they need to and when it matters most, i.e. racing, doing something to push your limits, or even to some degree, when you are just about to ride your bike.
PMPC concentrates on two main mental factors. The first is definitely as stated above, giving you the tools to achieve optimum performance when demanded and access to your Flow state. Additionally, PMPC also has a deep-set belief that your overall well-being is critical as well. Your wellbeing has a massive implication on how you perform, especially when the pressure is high. Essentially, what I am saying is, happiness in life is of up-most importance. If you think about it, when you are feeling happy, generally you will be more resilient to mental attack as you are able to turn the bad into good (looking on the bright side), your motivation towards life and goals you have set is higher, you are more confident in general, and your overall perspective on life is more optimistic. Physiologically, being happy also has a big impact on your psychological performance as well. There's some great research out there demonstrating that the simple act of smiling makes physiological changes in your brain, releasing feel-good chemicals (endorphins) such as serotonin and dopamine, which will then have a positive knock on effect to your psychological state of mind.
Happy people are successful people! (Or are more likely to be anyway). Thus, PMPC's take on mental performance is to not just concentrate on specific skills and tools to aid your performance, but it is to also give you tools and techniques to have a happier perspective on your sport, life and your environment. This, in turn can have positive implications on your actual performance. This is achieved in many different ways because no two people are identical, everyone is different, and thus different things work for different people.
Peak Mental Performance Coaching is based in Sheffield, England. Follow the link below to find out more about PMPC or if you feel you want to improve either your performance or your perspective on mountain bike racing/riding (or any sport).
Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and remember to keep a smile on your face and performance improvements won't be far behind!www.peakmentalperformance.co.ukwww.facebook.com/peakmentalperformancecoaching