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The Power of Positivity

We've all heard the start-line murmurs:

"My legs are tired."

"I didn't have much time to ride this week." 

"I'm just here for the training."

"Whatever happens is meant to happen."

It's likely we've all said those things or something similar at one time or another.  All of these statements have one thing in common – they put the speaker in a position of not having to take responsibility for the outcome of the race.  They are built-in excuses that allow us to explain not getting the result we had really wanted.

Once some years ago, I was racing a stage race which featured a road race on Saturday followed by a Sunday Criterium.  In the road race, some riders ahead went down on the wet roads, and the fallout from the crash took me off my bike as well.  I chased with 3 others, and although we came within seconds of the field, we never regained it.  Frustrated, I told my teammate that I was not going to race the criterium the next day.  My teammate is an optimist, and told me that I was better than the rest and that I should race.  He urged me to put that day behind me and look forward to a fresh opportunity.  I thought about it all night and in the morning, I was ready to go.  His positivity was infectious and deep down I knew he was right.  On the start line that morning, I knew I would win.  Even though criteriums are not my specialty and everyone who knows me knows that in a sprint I often go backwards, I won.  The previous day, I didn't even want to race.  Now, I had won, and the reason really boils down to one thing:  I found the positive side of a difficult situation. 

Finding the positivity in one's athletic pursuit takes practice.  It's easy to get down when things don't go your way, and it becomes self-fulfilling.  If you tell yourself that your legs are tired, then they are going to feel that way when you race. 

Here are a few ways to stay balanced and keep perspective on your training, racing, and outlook:

  1. Keep a journal.  This is not a training journal (more on that later), but an actual diary.  Write down each day what you're feeling and how you feel you're processing it.  Later, go back and read it.  Notice your language and the tone of your thoughts.  This will give you some perspective on yourself and help you see that, even though sometimes things are not exactly as you want them, they will change.
  2. Set your expectations.  If you're a new cat 3, it's not likely you'll ride the Giro any time soon.  However, you may well upgrade to cat 2 in the same season.  Set your expectations accordingly.
  3. Learn from your failures.  Don't focus on them, but make them part of your success. Success builds on success and your expectations of yourself will follow.
  4. Log your training.  Keeping your data and looking for trends in what you do and don't respond to is a good idea, and so is actually writing down exactly how you feel about how each workout went.  This helps put you in touch with your body and your mind.
  5. Hope for the best when you set your goals.  This is really another way of saying "focus on what you want."  Visualize success and achievement and remember to visualize being happy with your achievements. You need to believe in yourself.

Achieving a positive outlook will help you to not only get the most out of your athletic pursuits, but it will help you go about your days with confidence and the knowledge that you are doing your very best to succeed.

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