There was a time when a boy approaching manhood would be sat down for a chat with his Father to be told a tale about birds and bees. The internet has pretty much done away with the need for those conversations, although some may say that they are needed now more than ever. There may also be a need for young cyclists to be prepared for life as an adult bike rider and those conversations might revolve around some of the following :
Don’t expect it to be easy.
Cycling and boxing are the Worlds two toughest sports. You need to be physically and mentally strong. There will be days when you feel like giving up, but those are the days when persistence breeds champions. There will be times when you will be hurt and in pain but physical pain heals and is easier to take than the mental pain of feeling like a quitter. Nothing lasts for ever. All pain passes. What remains is the satisfaction of giving your all and knowing that you have done yourself justice.
Winning and Loosing.
Know that both of these are opposite sides of the same coin. Don’t gloat when you win and don’t beat yourself up and feel depressed when you loose. Enjoy the feeling of victory enough to make you want more of it. Use the frustration of loosing as a catalyst to make you work harder in order to avoid it in the future. Learn from both but remember that you will learn more from loosing than winning so long as you search for the lessons.
Dream the biggest and boldest dreams that your mind can possibly imagine. Dream them as vividly and as realistically as possible. Place no limits on your dreams. Know that dreams are the road map for success. All great champions have visualised and dreamed about winning the Worlds greatest races many more times than they have ever raced in them. It is always better to dream and to aim for the top of the mountain than to be ‘realistic’ and aim for the lower slopes.
The World is full of drugs. Those used in hospitals to treat sick people are good. Those sold on street corners, in some unreputable gyms and from the boot of a low slung car are bad. Being a cyclist in training gives you the credibility to say no to your peers in social occasions. Cycling is a tough sport so you are not saying no because your Mammy told you. You are saying no because you are an athlete with a future. Some athletes try to cheat their way to success using drugs but these are always victories based on a foundation of quicksand. It is absolutely possible to win at the very highest levels 100% clean, no matter what the sensationalist tabloid press will tell you. Clean victories build your self esteem and lead to a better future on and off the bike. If you want to be able to look yourself in the mirror, and to sleep at night remember that an honest mans pillow is his peace of mind.
Food and hydration.
You would not put Diesel into a Petrol engine so always be conscious of putting the best fuel into your body as much as possible. Moderation is key when it comes to treats. A few every now and then is OK in order to avoid the feeling of missing out but too many can lead to ‘lardassness’. A varied diet is good and the less processed the better. The fresher the better. Food that goes stale quickly is good. Food that never goes stale is bad. Drink plenty of water, especially the evening before big training days or race days.
Take it that most people are good and honourable. It’s easier to go through life like that, both on and off the bike. But when someone breaks your trust and does not keep their word take note. Not to get revenge but just to avoid it happening again in the future. Until you pedal in another mans shoes you do not know the background to his decisions. Make friends easily. Those that you make on the bike will be friends for life. Just like Navy Seals who have fought alongside each other there is a bond of common respect between those who have suffered together on the bike.
Use it to your advantage. Train in all conditions in order to be ready to compete in all conditions. By doing this you will have beaten 50% of the competition before even crossing the start line on wet or windy days. Training in bad conditions will also improve your bike handling. It will also make you feel satisfied after a training spin rather than feeling frustrated for missing out. With clothing like the ONDA Full Membrane range now available there is no excuse. You will not melt in the rain. Keep pedalling in the wind to maintain control over your bike. Relish the heat of the sun on really hot days. But when there is ice or snow, either head off road or stick to the indoor trainer.
Get yourself an anthem.
When days get hard and you are really suffering it is important to control what is going around between your two ears. Positive self talk is good but an uplifting song or anthem that will help drive you on is better. Not some wishy washy Westlife love song but something motivational. The words need to make sense to you. Stephen Roche once spoke of having the Rocky theme ‘Eye of the Tiger’ as his anthem. Eminems ‘loose yourself’ is another good one. The ones that boxers use heading for the ring can often be a good starting point if you don’t have one already. My favourite is Minutes to Memories by John Cougar Mellencamp :
This is my life,
It’s what I’ve chosen to do,
There’s no free ride,
No one said it’d be easy,
Suck it up,
Tough it out,
And be the best you can’