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How To Think Yourself Faster | Psychology For Cyclists

How To Think Yourself Faster | Psychology For Cyclists

– It’s no exaggeration to say that this GCN video could
revolutionise your cycling, because your head could make or break your ability on the bike. So, coming up are some tips on how to get the most out of it, but first, we need to talk about pain. (intense rock music) When we’re riding really fast or for a really long time, our physiology limits our performance, so that’s things like our muscles, and our heart, and our lungs. And we know when we’re
getting towards our limits, because typically our breathing
gets uncontrollably fast and we get pain in our legs. But have you ever wondered whether or not that pain you’re feeling is
really your body saying no or actually your head? Because there’s been an
awful lot of research done, and a lot of it quite recent that says that a lot of it may
well indeed be your head. So for example, a couple of years back, there was an article printed in the Scandinavian Journal
of Medicine & Sports Science, and they had shown that actually tolerance of exercise-induced pain
was a fantastic indicator of a cyclist’s ability to time trial. Then there’s an awful lot of
weird stuff going on as well, where researchers are actually using non-invasive techniques
to manipulate nerves, and so they’ve been able to
reduce exercise-induced pain by up to 12% and then
that had a knock-on effect of improving a person’s ability by 38%. So, if our bodies are
capable of so much more then, how are we going to take
off the rev limiter? Firstly, how your legs are feeling isn’t actually important. When I first heard that statement, I must say, I was taken aback, because, as cyclists, we’re always told to listen to our bodies and
to learn to read the signals. But actually, it’s very easy, and particularly for experienced cyclists, to start to get it wrong. If you, for example,
start listening carefully to pro cyclists who are
struggling with race results in post-race interviews, more often than not, you’ll actually hear them talk about their legs and their bodies as if they’re somehow separate
from the rest of them. So they’ll say things like, – “I just couldn’t go
into the road today.” – Or, – “Yeah, body just wasn’t
really responding today, yeah.” – Or, – “Well, my legs just weren’t
working properly today.” – And admittedly, if we
start exploring that issue, than it leads us to a very
dark and complex place, but the simple answer is just
stop listening to your body. Take a leaf out of Jens Voigt’s book, and tell your legs to shut up. – [Voigt] And I think I had
lactic acid up to my eyebrows. – Or, take one step further, and don’t even ask the
question to your legs anymore. And actually, although it’s a very subtle
difference sometimes, instead of thinking, I need to press harder on the pedals now, if you instead think, “Oh, I’m going to go faster.” It can actually have a
really powerful effect on your mental state on the bike. A lot of riders also get
great results from using distraction techniques that
also block out the pain, particularly on long climbs like this one. So there’s loads of
different ways of doing it but, very simply, you
could just try counting. So every half pedal revolution,
until you get up to 10, then go back to zero again. That’s also got a positive knock-on effect of allowing you to
maintain a specific cadence and therefore also pace, but for less performance-oriented riders, you can get some pretty good results out of singing. – ♫ People try to put us down – ♫ Talking bout my generation. – See I think it would
be almost impossible to feel pain at the same time as singing something like this, ♫ Bread of heaven, bread of heaven ♫ Feed me now and evermore Admittedly, some scientific
research may well be needed in order to back up that statement. ♫ Feed me now and evermore Okay, so the jury well
may be out on singing, but there is genuine scientific validation for the performance benefits of swearing. Because researchers at
University of Keele in the UK show that in a 30 second max sprint that actually swearing
gave an improvement, on average, of 24 watts. Now, clearly, there’s no
distraction techniques going on there. So what actually is happening? Well, the researchers think that swearing puts your body into fight or flight mode and, as well as triggering
adrenaline production, it also stimulates
stress-induced pain relief. So, genuine performance
benefits to be had. Although, let’s face it, to preserve the peace and tranquillity of our mountain climbs, maybe we should save
it for short intervals and also do it quietly. Come on you (bleeping),
turn those (bleeping) pedals for crying out loud (bleeping), come on! Come on, you (bleeping)! (Yelling) (Bleeping) Pedal! Now, unfortunately, there
will be many occasions where you can’t ignore the pain. But what you can definitely do is improve your tolerance of it. I suspect most of us cyclists
are slightly masochistic in that we actively enjoy the pain that we feel when riding
uphills fast for example. And that enjoyment is incredibly powerful because it allows us to
tolerate more of that pain. But it is also very easy to go from perceiving it as good pain to bad pain. We are not robots, and our emotions can very easily tip us into a completely different frame of mind. It might be that you suddenly notice that the person riding next to you isn’t breathing as hard as you, or, a really common one, you turn a corner only to see that the summit of a
climb isn’t metres away, it’s kilometres away. And at that moment, I can guarantee that the pain in your legs
will suddenly increase, your tolerance of it will decrease, and your performance drops off a cliff. The way through it though, is actually just to recognise
when these moments happen, because realistically, you’re never going to be able
to stop negative thoughts, but what you can do is
choose to ignore them and then think about something different, something positive, so you can think about how far you’ve already come up the climb, or how fast you’ve been going, or how many riders have
already been dropped. Think positively, not negatively. You may well find though, that there are times when the task at hand just feels completely overwhelming. You might be midway through an epic ride or halfway up a monster climb, and in either case, the finish line could just very well feel an awfully long way away and actually be completely unmanageable. But if that is the case, then the solution could
be a very simple one. Because instead of focusing on the finish, you could just break the task
down into manageable chunks. So, focus instead on
the next hairpin bend, or one more kilometre, because you can always
do one more kilometre, even it might not feel
like you can do 100. And then, you can take it
on one step further as well by actually rewarding yourself when you’ve achieved that particular task. It could be something as simple as taking a sip from your bottle if you’ve got a
sweet-tasting drink in there, because research has shown consistently that even the sensation
of having something sweet in your mouth is considered
a reward by your body, and therefor, it actually acts
as a performance-enhancer. You don’t have to
swallow any carbohydrate, but just the sensation of it in your mouth will improve your endurance. Bonkers. Now much of what we’ve
talked about already is very internal, so how we as individuals
manage or tolerate or block out pain. But actually, for a lot of us, external factors can
have a huge influence. Perhaps the roar of the
crowd as you ride past will really spur you on. But then it could also have
very negative effects as well. As you catch the sound of a lone passerby commenting about how tired
you look as you ride past, which will then have you weeping silently into your handlebars. But nevertheless, you could harness the power of external factors through visualisation techniques. Remembering consistently and repeatedly those moments where a
crowd has spurred you on. And, really powerfully, is
actually using loved ones, someone special to you as
some form of inspiration. Whatever you’re doing,
you’re doing it for them. You can push harder for them, you can go further for them. Now, it might be slightly dark again, but nevertheless, it’s a really good tip actually, and it’s worth having
it in your back pocket for special occasions. There’s a number of points
there that you can try. Remember to not accept
pain for what it is. You can try and block it out, you can also harness the power of a positive mental attitude, you can use visualisation techniques, you can use the stimulus of rewards. Oh and you can also
swear from time to time, if that also floats your boat. Now, do, before leaving this video, make sure you subscribe to GCN. It’s very simple, just click on the globe. And then, if you’re after more content, well, in the same vein as
thinking yourself faster, there’s an old, but a good one up there, which is how to ride faster for free, and then down there, you can’t ignore the power of training, but also pain tolerance can come from some dirty interval
sessions and that one is one of our toughest
indoor training sessions yet.

100 thoughts on “How To Think Yourself Faster | Psychology For Cyclists

  1. I rode 100 miles for charity: my sister has MS and riding for the MS Society made me focus far more, set PBs, the lot.

  2. Impressive pace to your climb while conversing. I would add that a good forceful primal scream now and again can be good for the psyche. Perhaps the same effect as swearing without being offensive.

  3. I've got a new technique! Just make a sound clip of Si cussing at his legs and put it on repeat! 🤣

  4. That's why the preworkout is so important. I really notice a difference, especially when mountainbiking. If i arrive pumped up at the track, thinking about the trails i'm gonna rip up and listening to the appropriate music , then i'll actually do it. Same with cycling in a group that's too slow and keeps moaning about the speed. When you finally are "released" you'll be very very fast. I'll feel the pain, but won't act on it. Just make some weird noises and faces probably

  5. Someone should've taught those techniques to Valverde in TdF. Quitting over a cracked kneecap? pfft, just hum along to "Ode to Joy", you're fine!

  6. There is a mistake in the video. The point is that swearing does not trigger "fight-or flight" mode. Here is the quote.

    "In the latest study, people’s heart rates did not rise any more when they swore, a finding that suggests the expletives were not triggering the so-called fight-or-flight response. “Quite why it is that swearing has these effects on strength and pain tolerance remains to be discovered,” Stephens said."

  7. Swearing lol… I was riding downhill at Whistler and my shorts got snagged on seat collar and I couldn't lower my leg and it was the leg I normally put on the ground first and it was steep n fast section… "fk fk fk sht fk sht fk fk sht fk", he's kina right, I did laugh after n felt better

  8. Getting angry and swearing definitely works. I got angry after being cut off by a taxi and sprinted after him for over a km to remonstrate with him 😐

  9. Great video!
    When I used to use a turbo on a regular basis for interval sessions, I found that my HR dropped quicker in the recovery intervals if I hummed 'ommmmm' audibly. I can't think where I read about this but it was quite intriguing as an interval sessions with ommming was always more successful (i.e. I could hit the power levels for the full interval duration on every interval) than without. Without the humming, I started each interval relatively more tired and thus often couldn't sustain the power on the last one or two intervals. So maybe those monks have something to offer as well as the sports scientists. However, I have tried ommming when ascending (much to the merriment of my club mates) but I usually didn't have enough breath to cycle and hum – possibly the same limitation applies to singing.

  10. Hi Guys how about some publicity for Ed Pratts Round the world unicycle tour on behalf of school in a bag ive been watching quite a few of his videos fascinating riding on one wheel with a rucsac splayed between your legs etc..

  11. LMAO I thought I was the only one who cussed myselfout while riding. On a climb I really call myself all kinds of nasty crap.

  12. Thanks Si for the great video, I will use this info next weekend at the Leadville 100MTB race. It has 12,600ft of  climbing. Race starts at 10,200ft elevation ,and climbs to 12,638ft. Climbing is not my strong suit, so I may be using the swearing tip a few times. And a positive attitude.

  13. Looking at the tarmac…or thinking about a Vivaldi Oboe Concerto allowed me to climb the struggle and Honnister Pass

  14. Well, when I get cramps, I can try to trick my mind with every possible technique, my legs still won't respond !

  15. I do swear a lot. Let's say that it's really easy to do so in Italian. Once you're out of gods/saints to swear to, you start over again with the list. Really helpful sometimes

  16. Tnx for these tips. Very soon me and my club is going to Sirdalen in Norway to doo an 7km. long and ca.10% steep climb

  17. This video would be really useful to me if my pain wasn't coming from my tendons and ongoing knee problems. I've had to cut back on training by half to keep my knees intact

  18. I used to do the counting technique when I was a teenager and I used to jog the 2 miles back home on a Friday or Saturday night after a night on the town when I didn't have enough money for a cab. I used to find it help regulate my breathing. Nowadays I just seem to get lines from songs stuck in my head for the entire ride, not through choice, it just happens, annoyingly.

  19. You absolute Fu£$ing dancer, next time i'm in the fu£$ing sh!!y gym smashing the Fu£$ out of the watt bike doing a mother fu£$ing 20min FTP i'm going to break the [email protected] little ba$t£rd. with all this extra power.

    Will probably get banned from the gym but hey the results would be worth it 😀

  20. this is all well and good, but goes out the window when you have the propensity for cramping which i do. Doesn't happen every race, but mountain bike races two hours or more, i can usually count on it, even if i have my hydration dialed in. 50 min/1 hour cross racing? totally fine. No technique will work once your quads utterly and completely lock up. In fact techniques like this might even bring me quicker to cramp. I really DO need to listen to my legs through a race. But yes some of these are cool and good to keep in mind.

  21. How does pulling faces affect your performance limits, such as Thomas Voeckler and Tom Last do? Close to swearing?

  22. I just have one warning about pushing past pain, be careful doing it when you are exceptionally tired. It is good to work through pain and to get better but sometimes your metal strength out does your physical and Injuries happen. For me that happened when I was doing 300m sprints and my body was so tired and didn't want to move but I made it go harder thinking it was just mental but I ended up tearing my hamstring and my glutes. So just know the difference between mental and physical pain.

  23. Thanks Si… these tips really helped today…. the expletives😋 during climbs and having some fast music helped me get to my first 17mph+ ride over 30 miles … thanks again. Awesome video.. cheers.

  24. I really wanna hear Simon swearing without the bleeps! Sounds hilarious, and its true in my experience. I like to call myself mthfker and taunt myself up climbs.

  25. A mate and I were once battling a 14% grad when the farmers at the vale to the right-hand side decided killing a pig was a neat idea. The pig would cry at every turn of our pedal. Incredible how this can get into your mind.
    The other thing I hate is being on such or steeper climbs and a passing car has to reduce gears, and your hear the engine revving like crazy, and your mind goes like "I told you, you ***, why do you want this when not even a car can handle it?".

  26. Typical of the "siborg" and his lizard operator to not be affected by psychological limits #theskyisnotthelimit

  27. This is a genuinely fantastic video! Truly inspired by it! It's funny, I had not realised how many pain management techniques I use until watching this vid.

  28. Yo gano fam !how do i get my left leg to push even as my right leg btw the right my stronger leg reason being i get crazy knee pain i never had before dropped me from cycling for weeks kinda scared to do longer rided than 2 miles. Thanx

  29. I'm a new rider but when I'm going up hill, I try not to look up as much so, I don't get discourage, I only look up to see if I don't have any one in front of me or too close. I breath in and out . I sing during my rides and when I feel is too hard I'm talking to God to help me get there! 😀 it works great!!!

  30. As a climber and a very power orientated style one at that, swearing fucking works, a nice power scream aswell helps push the air out, example….'AHHHHHH FUCK!!!!!'

  31. "Hello legs; what's that you're telling me?" Oh, yeah? Ah, you poor babies… shut the hell up!" That's how I handle it OR just ignore 'em.

  32. When I listen to Rhythmic music whilst riding, I always go faster. My theory is that it calms my mind and keeps the focus on the ride and not the pain.

  33. The problem with singing is that it will slow down your breathing and lower the speed you can go at. At least in my eyperience.

  34. What about pain killers and male enhancement pills?
    We have male enhancement pills (used in bed).. I do know a lot of cyclists that use them.. and makes them an ultimate climbing machine (gradients 20%-40%) in my country..

  35. singing loudly on climbs might make you look tad excentric, but has potent training effects! it enforces conciously controlling your breath, to not pass out, and strengthens the whole respiratory systrem, and the diaphragm in particular. think of military PE. "DADA DEEDA DEEDA DAH"
    some argue that judas priest or rammstein lyrics dont work quite as well, but make you feel about exactly 54.321% more badass, significantly boosting the tolrance to ANLwS (achy noddle leg whining syndrome) and increasing over all performance by the quare root of pi or something.

  36. I think knowing the climb is very important to calm down the mind. I believe our mind – if knows there is long unknown length of a climb ahead – will start to limit us/our body (put into pain, whatsoever) to save energy, to be ready if there is more climbing than we expected. I feel like climbing is already considered by our mind as "fight or flight", so until there is no real danger, mind may try limit the body, to have some extra energy in case of "danger".

  37. On my bike tour through the western alps (big bags, tent, stove, the works!) I got into a weird, and unexpected habit of saying to myself "there's only 2km to the summit, now you can really go for it!". it worked every time. But I suspect the main reason was the ridiculous number of 2000+ metre summits I'd crested for days on end, making me pretty fit. At least for a few weeks. That was a real thing though. Never forget it! "Just 2 km. Easy, see? Go for it!". I caught a couple of folks on unloaded racing bikes (Vars and Cayolle, and also a few on the way along the bottom of the Izoard who I surprised by keeping up with them at 40 + km/h. Apart from the last ones, that was really mean of me. I bet the guys on the racing bikes rarely felt worse pain in their lives than when I caught and passed them, with the full set of Carradice, plus saddle bag, plus tent…. 🙂

  38. Wow! Thanks GCN! Your absolutely right, positive mental attitude is all you need to endure the pain. Great video, it helps a lot!

  39. Mahayana buddhists teach not just tolerance of pain, but acceptance of pain as a welcome friend. When you're challenging pain, especially if you're newer to getting serious about exercise I think it's important to move forward gradually.

  40. "You can always do one more kilometer." Uh, no, you can't. Not if you're too dizzy to ride or if you're having significant A-fib, which you just might experience if you ignore your body's idiot lights. Pain in my legs often means a cramp is imminent. Ignoring that is foolish if maximum performance is the goal, unless one of you former pro riders can explain how to keep pedaling with a cramped thigh. That's on 'pro skill' I haven't quite mastered yet.

  41. Embrace the pain is what I keep telling myself whenever I'm feeling it. Halfway I feel like I'm reaching my limit and at the end I'm like "home already?". Not always of course but happens alot xD. But I'll admit, my longest ride was 2x 75 km so it's not like I ride like 100km more after feeling the pain 😉

  42. The Swearing Method! Love it. Have been doing this more and more, mostly when no one is in hearing distance, LOL!

  43. Something that really helps me is thinking of why your doing it so for example if you’ve got a race or sportive think of winning that race getting a PB on your sportive

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