Carrie Cheadle - Mental Skills Training Coach » Cycling Specific http://carriecheadle.com Master your mental game & take control of your sport performance Wed, 26 Nov 2014 21:56:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Science of Sport – Interview with Shawn Heidgen of TrainingPeakshttp://carriecheadle.com/the-science-of-sport/ http://carriecheadle.com/the-science-of-sport/#comments Tue, 26 Mar 2013 19:25:49 +0000 http://carriecheadle.com/?p=2475 Every endurance athlete knows that there is both an art and a science to training and competition, but not every athlete commits to working on both. I was invited to be a speaker at the Women’s Cycling Conference at the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in Davis, CA. Bill Nicely, General Manager of Pinnacle p/b Argon […]

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Lactate Threshold Test

Tracking training data can drastically improve your performance.

Every endurance athlete knows that there is both an art and a science to training and competition, but not every athlete commits to working on both. I was invited to be a speaker at the Women’s Cycling Conference at the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in Davis, CA. Bill Nicely, General Manager of Pinnacle p/b Argon 18 Cycling Team, organized the conference that brought together a solid group of speakers that covered everything from optimal nutrition and the physiology of training, to improving mental strength and learning how to balance cycling and life. Among the list of amazing speakers (yes – I just referred to myself as amazing) was Robin Farina, Judd Van Sickle, Stacy Sims, Felicia Gomez, and Shawn Heidgen.

After the conference a few of us went out to dinner and Robin, Shawn, and I got to talking about the current state of women’s cycling. During the course of the conversation one of the topics we covered was how some athletes are really intimidated and overwhelmed by gathering performance feedback and delving into the science of their training. Shawn works as an Education Specialist at TrainingPeaks and at the conference she was teaching participants about the TrainingPeaks software and how to train efficiently and measure training progress. She has been involved in the cycling world since 1992, as a regional racer, then later as a professional cyclist turned coach and entrepreneur (some of her career highlights include being the 2002 Illinois State Mountain Bike Champion, 2x finisher of the Giro d’Italia Femminile in 2003 & 2004, and 2x winner of 24 hours of E-rock Mountain Bike Race in 2009 & 2010). She also provides data analysis for the Tour de France, USAPC, and other races.

I brought Shawn here to share her thoughts on the science of sport performance and the importance of using that data to inform your training and racing decisions.


Carrie: For those not familiar with TrainingPeaks, what kind of data does it track?

Shawn Heidgen

Shawn Heigen – Education Specialist at TrainingPeaks

Shawn: TrainingPeaks is the industry leader for endurance coaches and motivated individuals, to monitor, analyze and plan their fitness and nutrition for peak performance. We are compatible with over 90 devices (Garmin, PowerTap, SRM, Stages, Quark, Timex, etc). Athletes can upload their nutritional and workout data to their TrainingPeaks account for detailed analysis and also plan future training. We offer advanced metrics that will help athletes reach their goal event in peak form.

Carrie: How has using data helped you with your own performance?

Shawn: Now I am going to date myself…and this is going to get long. Before I raced professionally, I suffered what should’ve been a career ending hip fracture in 1997. The really funny thing is that when I broke my hip the first time (yes, I did it twice) I wasn’t even that good of a cyclist. Fast forward a few years and through the Chronic Pain Program at the Mayo Clinic, being on crutches for 6 months, and being told that I’d probably never ride again let alone race, I somehow made it back to bike (thanks to an amazingly supportive husband). I still remember being able to ride for only 15 minutes at first. Well, I may not have been a physically gifted athlete but I am stubborn and determined and that was enough.

Being in chronic pain, I was very limited to the type and amount of training I could do but my mental focus was better than ever. That was the one incredible thing that my broken hip and chronic pain gave me. You really do look at life, at racing, at pain differently. In so many mental ways, I became a better athlete than ever after breaking my hip. I could suffer like you cannot imagine on the bike and I no longer had a fear of failure. I just went for it, whatever it was and gave it everything I had because I was just lucky and happy to be out there and I knew that what ever time I had racing, it was borrowed time and I wasn’t going to waste any of it. So, with the help of some great coaches, we created a very specific and focused training plan. But, in order to make it all work, I had to measure, record, and analyze everything and that is exactly what I did.

I started training with power around 2000. There was an indoor trainer made by Cateye that measured power. Not exactly accurate but it was consistent and it worked. Then came my first Powertap, shortly after the Cateye. So, I was recording my watts, heart rate, gearing, time, cadence, speed, etc. Everything and anything I could measure I did and recorded it all. All hand written back then, but the knowledge I gained was priceless. I learned what I could handle, what was too much, and how to make every workout count. The data allowed me to come up with measurable and attainable goals. Eventually I was able to compete on a national and even international level despite only being able to do a fraction of the training that most of my competitors were doing.

Carrie: Why do you think some people are intimidated by the “science” of sport performance?

Shawn: In the past, scientific analysis was labor intensive and time consuming. The athlete or coach had to perform the calculations themselves (if they even had access to or knew how to), using complex formulas and algorithms. But, with programs like TrainingPeaks, all the number crunching is done for you. We take the raw data and perform the calculations translating it into easy to understand charts and graphs making it ready to be analyzed by the coach or athlete. I think it’s important to note that we don’t prescribe to a certain coaching or training philosophy and we are NOT a coaching company. We are a software company. So, the coach and athlete still applies their own methodology to training, we just report the data so that you can train as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Carrie: How does having this kind of feedback help people with their training and performance?

Shawn: It is truly amazing. Joe Friel likes to tell people that when you start tracking and analyzing your data, it is like getting glasses for the first time. Suddenly, everything is clear and in focus. So many athletes talk about “peaking” at the right time and how difficult it is to do. Using features like the Performance Management Chart, we literally take the guesswork out of peaking. The athlete knows exactly how taxing each workout is and also the cumulative effect it has over time and can then plan future workouts and know exactly how those workouts will affect fitness and fatigue. Pro Tour riders are now using and even depending on TrainingPeaks to track and plan their seasons, to monitor their fitness level and dial in their training and recovery precisely.


The major take-aways from Shawn’s interview is the fact that if you want to see some true measurable improvements in your results, you need to be deliberate and focused with your training. If you want to improve your performance, you have to build from where you are now and the only way to effectively and efficiently do that is through gathering, processing, and implementing feedback. By being specific with her own goals and letting the data inform her decisions, she had the roadmap of where she wanted to go and the knowledge of how to get there. Gathering, processing, and implementing feedback allowed her to be optimally efficient and effective with her training.

TrainingPeaks is just one example of the many tools available for gaining feedback. From using video analysis, to written daily training logs, working with a coach, and reflecting on your race – there are many different sources for feedback and you gain valuable information from each one. Decide right now what kind of feedback you need in order to improve your performance and and then figure out where can you get it.

Are you an artist or a scientist (or a little of both) when it comes to training? What kind of data do you keep track of and has it helped your performance? Let me know in the comments.

Photo Courtesy of rodeomilano used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

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Don’t Let Bad Luck Ruin Your Racehttp://carriecheadle.com/shelley-olds/ http://carriecheadle.com/shelley-olds/#comments Tue, 19 Feb 2013 18:44:16 +0000 http://carriecheadle.com/?p=2470 When you are privileged enough to call yourself an athlete (and you may count yourself in this category even if you question am I an athlete?), you can be sure that at some point you will experience a big disappointment on the day of a race. No one had reason to feel that more than Shelley […]

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Women's Road Race 2012 London Olympic Games

Shelley Olds in the winning break at the 2012 London Olympics before a bit of bad luck with a flat tire

When you are privileged enough to call yourself an athlete (and you may count yourself in this category even if you question am I an athlete?), you can be sure that at some point you will experience a big disappointment on the day of a race. No one had reason to feel that more than Shelley Olds during the Women’s Road Race at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Going into the games she was a top choice for winning a medal, especially if the race ended in a bunch sprint. Olds was in the winning break when she got a flat tire that ultimately changed her Olympic fate that day. She ended up 7th, which is an INCREDIBLE accomplishment, but a difficult pill to swallow when you had a realistic shot at coming home with an Olympic medal.

To know that you were in the winning move and it all went away with a bit of bad luck; to feel the years of dedication, commitment, and sacrifice on the line as you got your wheel change and saw the winning break riding away; when you’ve been training for a specific event it can be devastating to have a little bad luck affect the outcome of your race. When this happens, it can be challenging to see your race as anything else but an unrealized dream and an utter disappointment. It’s seemingly impossible to see it any other way. Or is it? I’m here to challenge you to start re-envisioning what it means to be successful on the day of your event – to step back and gain a broader perspective of the entire landscape. When you zoom out, you see that race day is only part of the picture.

Shelley Olds understands this perspective. In this fantastic interview on the Norcal Cycling News blog, she shares what she learned from her experience at the 2012 Olympic Games and how important it is to take the whole picture into account when reflecting back on your race. She says:

“When I look back on the whole experience, making the Olympic team and my performance on race day is something I will always be so proud of. Although I happened to have very bad luck in the race, and possibly had a real shot at an Olympic medal, I enjoyed every moment of the preparation and build up to the Games.”

Shelley Olds is proud of everything she did to put herself in position to win at the Olympics. All the work she put in to be her best that day – for every tough training session, for every sacrifice she made, for putting herself out there and taking the risk, for all of it – she’s taking all of these things into consideration when she reflects back on her experience at the Olympics.

When you think about a time something went wrong and wish you could erase that memory from your mind, it’s time to reframe your event and tell another story; the REAL story. You can start by answering these two questions:

  • What did I do well during my training?
  • What did I do well on race day?

It’s hard not to think that the entire journey was a failure when you didn’t accomplish your goals on race day, but the outcome of your event only tells one small part of the story. Don’t let one moment of bad luck erase your memory of all the sacrifices you made and goals you accomplished along the way to your race. Don’t let someone else’s criteria of what it means to be successful affect how you feel about your performance.

Now that you have taken a step back and looked at the big picture, leave a comment & tell me what challenges you encountered on race day and why you are proud of what you accomplished.

Photo Courtesy of roanokecollege used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

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3 Reasons You Should Set a Race Goalhttp://carriecheadle.com/3-reasons-you-should-set-a-race-goal/ http://carriecheadle.com/3-reasons-you-should-set-a-race-goal/#comments Thu, 12 Jul 2012 18:45:30 +0000 http://carriecheadle.com/?p=1452 In honor of my upcoming workshop at the Wipro San Francisco Marathon Expo, I decided to write a post for all of you amazing athletes out there with an upcoming race! (If you’re going to be out at the expo the day before marathon, come check out my workshop at 9:30a the day before the race! […]

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Athlete focusing on her goals before the start of a race

Ready for Race Day

In honor of my upcoming workshop at the Wipro San Francisco Marathon Expo, I decided to write a post for all of you amazing athletes out there with an upcoming race!

(If you’re going to be out at the expo the day before marathon, come check out my workshop at 9:30a the day before the race! The workshop is all about mentally preparing for the challenges of race day. I’ll be sharing the top 5 essential mental skills training tips for “enduring your endurance event” and accomplishing your race day goals!)

QUESTION:

“Do I have to have a race goal?”

ANSWER:

No. But you may decide that you want to after you read this post. Some athletes shy away from having race goals because they feel like it puts too much pressure on them to perform. For those athletes, just thinking about setting a race goal produces anxiety. If you find yourself in this category (and even if you don’t!) here are three specific benefits to convince you to reconsider the importance of having a race day goal:

  1. Race goals help direct your energy and focus -Race day is full of excitement, energy, and distractions. Having a specific goal for your race will make it less likely for you to be distracted by cues that are unrelated to your performance. With a clear goal it will be easier to conserve energy by deciphering what is important to pay attention to and what isn’t.
  2. Race goals help you persevere in the face of race day challenges –When you have a specific goal you are working towards and you are committed to that goal, you are more likely to see ways to adapt and adjust to race day challenges. Rather than seeing them as insurmountable obstacles and giving up, your goal helps you to be resilient and keep moving forward.
  3. Race goals help you push through when your body is ready to give up –If you’re just along for the ride, you are less likely to push yourself in that moment when the going gets tough. When your body is suffering due to the exertion you are putting out you often come to face a psychological hurdle.

 “Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up.”Gen. George S. Patton, Olympic Pentathlete

If you reach the end of your race and feel like you could have done better, there was a moment during your race when you held back. Having that specific goal helps you dig deep in those moments and overcome that psychological hurdle so you know that at the end of your race you gave everything you had to give.

Time to Set a Goal

If your heart starts racing, palms start sweating, and you feel a little nauseous when it comes to setting race goals, chances are that you’re only thinking about an outcome goal for your race. Think about an upcoming race and finish this sentence: “It would feel amazing if I could walk away and say that…”

If the end of that sentence is an outcome goal, then you need to set another goal that tells you what do you need to do during the race in order to accomplish that outcome goal. Setting a more task-related goal helps keep your focus where it needs to be and puts the control into your hands. Instead of feeling pressure to perform and keeping your focus in the future, it keeps you grounded in the moment and focused on what you need to do right now in order to set yourself up for success. Even if your goal for every competition is to win, you still have to have the goal that tells you how you’re going to do it.

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How to Suffer During a Big Cycling Efforthttp://carriecheadle.com/how-to-suffer-during-a-big-cycling-effort/ http://carriecheadle.com/how-to-suffer-during-a-big-cycling-effort/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2011 15:54:44 +0000 http://carriecheadle.com/blog/?p=481 We are in the final week of the tour and there is one major topic we haven’t touched on yet. How can you push yourself through those moments when your legs are on fire, your eyeballs feel like they are going to pop out, and you just might start crying as you think to yourself […]

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We are in the final week of the tour and there is one major topic we haven’t touched on yet. How can you push yourself through those moments when your legs are on fire, your eyeballs feel like they are going to pop out, and you just might start crying as you think to yourself “how much longer can they keep up this pace!?” The final Mental Skills Minute for this year’s Tour de France is all about suffering.

There is a difference between pain from an injury and the pain that comes from putting out an intense effort during a race. In the former situation, the pain is a signal that your body sends so that you will stop what you’re doing so you won’t do further harm. In the latter situation, it’s pain that is a part of being a competitive athlete. When it comes to your ability to put out a big effort, what you are thinking is just as important as your training, hydration, fueling, and recovery. Physiological differences alone do not determine successful performance; your mental skills and mental toughness play an important role as well. Here are a few tips for getting to the end of your race knowing that you left everything you had out on the course.

  1. Have a specific goal. What is your goal for this race or event? When you have a specific goal for your race, you are more likely to push yourself through those moments when it gets tough in order to keep sight of your goal. If you’re just along for the ride, you won’t push yourself as hard. A specific goal helps you control your focus and effort when the pace picks up.
  2. Know where your focus needs to be. At what times during the race are you likely to feel extreme discomfort due to the physical effort you are putting out? Your brain is like a big magnet. Once you start down a line of thinking, it starts attracting more thoughts along those same lines. Keep your mind occupied with cues relevant to your performance. Focus on your breathing, smooth pedal strokes, sticking to the wheel in front of you, etc. Know where you are likely to suffer and choose your focus ahead of time.
  3. Change your perception of the pain. Our full experience of pain is connected to our perception of the pain. If you decide the pain is awful and bordering on unbearable, your experience and tolerance will be different than if your perception of it is more positive. Associate the pain with something positive like getting stronger or getting to your goal. You can also help change your perception by telling yourself that EVERYONE is suffering and that there is a finite end to the effort. Try out these three tips for your next big climb or the next time you have to chase back on and see how it impacts your performance.

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Improving Confidence and Riding Aggressivelyhttp://carriecheadle.com/improving-confidence-and-riding-aggressively/ http://carriecheadle.com/improving-confidence-and-riding-aggressively/#comments Thu, 14 Jul 2011 17:32:55 +0000 http://carriecheadle.com/blog/?p=462 In cycling, there are a few situations I hear about over and over again when it comes to feeling anxious on the bike. Steep fast descents, tight technical turns, and riding in a pack are situations that can get your heart pumping and your hands sweating. During these moments, some cyclists will find themselves hitting […]

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In cycling, there are a few situations I hear about over and over again when it comes to feeling anxious on the bike. Steep fast descents, tight technical turns, and riding in a pack are situations that can get your heart pumping and your hands sweating. During these moments, some cyclists will find themselves hitting their brakes and even deliberately drifting to the back of the pack in order to manage the anxiety that they feel in that moment. In this Mental Skills Minute I share a couple tips for working on confidence and being able to ride and race aggressively.

  1. It’s not always in your head. If you find that you are nervous in situations like fast descents or cornering, you might need to actually work on your physical skills as well as your mental skills. A lack of confidence isn’t always in your head. You can improve your confidence dramatically in these situation by making sure that you are proficient with your bike handling skills. Go take a clinic or even set up your own clinic. If you want to improve on these skills you need to make the time to do it.
  2. Focus on what is in your control. Some cyclists might feel like their skills are just fine, but they don’t trust the skills of the people riding around them. There is a difference between being aware of riders around you and being afraid of what might happen. When awareness moves to fear, you are eliciting your stress response based on something that might happen and something that is out of your control. When you find yourself in that situation, stop the thought, breathe, and choose to focus on something that is in your control.
  3. Relax on the bike. When you elicit your stress response, you create muscular tension in your body. An excess of muscular tension impacts your coordination and balance on your bike. Imagine getting bumped or hitting a pothole on your bike while your entire body is tense. Tension in your body transfers to tension on your bike. When you are tense, you are less likely to absorb the bumps in the road and bumps from other riders. The best thing you can do for your confidence is to breathe and relax on the bike.

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Mental Preparation for Climbinghttp://carriecheadle.com/mental-preparation-for-climbing/ http://carriecheadle.com/mental-preparation-for-climbing/#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2011 22:43:07 +0000 http://carriecheadle.com/blog/?p=454 Climbing! As we move into the mountain stages of the Tour de France, this Mental Skills Minute will be focused on climbing. If you are filled with dread every time you approach a climb, you are burning matches that you are going to need in order to make it over the top. Stop wasting matches and […]

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Climbing! As we move into the mountain stages of the Tour de France, this Mental Skills Minute will be focused on climbing. If you are filled with dread every time you approach a climb, you are burning matches that you are going to need in order to make it over the top. Stop wasting matches and use these tips to work on your mental game during a climb.

  1. Stop saying you’re not a climber. In cycling we like to put people into categories. Are you a climber? A sprinter? A GC rider? What box can I fit you in? Many cyclists therefore define themselves as “not a climber”. By definition you are setting yourself up to have a tough time up that climb. Although it may be true that you aren’t as strong as other cyclists on the climb and in in fact you hate climbing, but when it comes to the mental fortitude it takes to get up a climb to the best of YOUR ability, you need to stop saying you’re not a climber.
  2. Know the climb. Take the time to pre-ride the climbs. If you can’t pre-ride, then drive the course. Your expectations of how hard the climb will be is part of what regulates your effort on that climb. If suddenly, the climb is harder than you thought it would be, your brain tells your body to back off. In that moment, you suddenly feel like you are working a hundred times harder simply because your brain is having to adjust to the new expectations. When the reality is different than the expectation it’s like a gap has opened up and now you have to work even harder (mentally and physically) to close that gap.
  3. Getting past getting passed.You could be feeling great on a climb and then get passed by another cyclist (that seems to be actually enjoying the climb) and in that moment your confidence unravels. Don’t let your confidence get shaken when you get passed. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing on the climb. They are doing what they need to do to get up the climb. What they are doing is out of your control and has nothing to do with you. Race your race and climb your climb. Keep your focus on you and stay in the moment – what do you need to do in this moment to get through this part of the climb successfully?
  4. Break up the climb. Sometimes you can help yourself stay in the moment by breaking up the climb into segments. This can be an especially effective tool if you are working harder than you expected or if the climb is harder than expected. Instead of time traveling into the future and wondering how in the world you are going to get up this entire climb, just focus on pedaling to the next tree or the next corner. Once you get a bike length past your chosen point, choose another point and just focus on getting there and before you know it you’ll be on the descent.
  5. Know your focus. When you are putting out a big effort on a climb, you need to know ahead of time where you want your focus to be in order to get up that climb to the best of your ability. Focusing techniques like the ones explained in the video – using imagery and counting pedal strokes – will help keep you moving forward when your brain and body are screaming at you to quit.

Relax about the climb. When you are stressed and tense about climbing, you are going to have a miserable climb. You are in control of your mental approach on the climb. Take the time to prepare mentally and you will be a better climber!

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Keeping Your Cool After a Bad Stagehttp://carriecheadle.com/keeping-your-cool-after-a-bad-stage/ http://carriecheadle.com/keeping-your-cool-after-a-bad-stage/#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2011 16:02:01 +0000 http://carriecheadle.com/blog/?p=442 The topic for this Mental Skills Minute is all about recovering from a bad stage. In a stage race as long as the Tour de France, you are bound to have a day that doesn’t go as planned. When you have a day that doesn’t go as well as you hoped it would, you need […]

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The topic for this Mental Skills Minute is all about recovering from a bad stage. In a stage race as long as the Tour de France, you are bound to have a day that doesn’t go as planned. When you have a day that doesn’t go as well as you hoped it would, you need to be able to find a way to let it go, regroup, and get focused on the next day’s stage.

Pick a time to reflect and a time to move on. If you find yourself brooding over a bad day follow these steps to help refocus:

  • Pick a specific length of time to analyze: Pick a set amount of time to think about that day’s stage. You can even set a timer to it. You get one hour to be pissed off, learn from it, and move on.
  • Keep it simple: There is a time to do some serious analyzing and that time is not necessarily during the race. Keep it simple and ask yourself these questions – What did I do well? What would I change? What do I want to carry forward into tomorrow?
  • Draw a line in the sand: Create a symbolic line that once it’s crossed, you have let go of that day’s stage and move on. You need to recover and prepare mentally for the next day’s stage and you are eating into that precious time when you can’t let go and move on. Your “line” could be closing the car door, walking into the hotel room, getting out of the shower, etc. Create some symbolic way that becomes your ritual for moving on.

The reason this is so important is that after a bad stage we create a story about that stage. This is the story we tell over and over in our minds. It might not be the same story you tell to your friends or the media, but it’s the one you actually believe and tell yourself. The story you create in your mind gets carried forward into the next day. That story has a HUGE impact on your confidence and focus moving forward. It’s even more important to be deliberate about the story you create after a bad day because events that have a strong negative emotion attached to them get a deeper imprint in your memory. You have to override it. Don’t let the emotion tell the story because the emotion never tells the whole story – it only tells the part where you’re pissed off, frustrated, angry, and upset. YOU are the author, so make sure the story you tell is one that helps you keep your focus and confidence.

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Regaining Confidence After a Bike Crashhttp://carriecheadle.com/regaining-confidence-after-a-bike-crash/ http://carriecheadle.com/regaining-confidence-after-a-bike-crash/#comments Wed, 06 Jul 2011 22:16:01 +0000 http://carriecheadle.com/blog/?p=421 I’m bringing all of you cyclists out there some special videos during the 2011 Tour de France from my new YouTube channel. These first videos will be on topics specific to mental skills training for cyclists. Each topic relates the challenges that these pro cyclists will face in the tour, but also the challenges that […]

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I’m bringing all of you cyclists out there some special videos during the 2011 Tour de France from my new YouTube channel. These first videos will be on topics specific to mental skills training for cyclists. Each topic relates the challenges that these pro cyclists will face in the tour, but also the challenges that you may face as a rider as well. The first topic is all about crashes. When you race your bike at a competitive level, crashes are an inevitable risk that you take as part of your sport. If you’ve been watching this year’s Tour de France, you’ve already seen several crashes throughout the first few stages. When you’re a pro and your job is to race, you might be in the position of having to shake it off, get back on your bike, and continue riding in the tour – even with injuries. But jumping back on the bike isn’t always an option after a crash. For many people, the physical wounds heal much faster than the mental ones. It can take some time to regain your confidence and get back onto the bike feeling just as aggressive as you were before your crash. Regaining your confidence after a crash can take some deliberate work. Here is a rundown of the three tips you will hear about in the Mental Skills Minute video:

  1. Start Small: Once you are healed from your injury and get back on your bike, you want to be deliberate about how you build your confidence back up. Start with the things that produce the least amount of anxiety and work up to the ones that produce the most. For example, if your crash happened on a descent and now you find yourself feeling nervous about descending – start out with short descents that you know really well and build your confidence there. Don’t worry about how strong and confident you used to feel – just focus on building your confidence from where you are right now and work up from there.
  2. Relax Your Mind: Your stress response can be triggered by the thoughts in your mind. If you are nervous about being back on your bike, your thoughts can literally create tension in your body. Tension in your body can impact how strong and confident you feel on your bike. You need to relax your mind so you can relax your body. Come up with a mantra – something you can say to yourself that will trigger how you want to feel. As you’re descending, you can help reduce the tension in your body by repeating words like “relax”, “smooth”, “strong”. Be sure the thoughts in your mind contribute to helping you feel confidence, not anxious.
  3. Relax Your Body: Physical tension will affect your coordination and balance on the bike. If you’re nervous about crashing, those nerves transfer to tension in your body and make you feel even more nervous because it will make you feel out of control on the bike. You need to work on relaxing your body so you aren’t contributing to that physical tension. The most important thing you can do to help with this is to make sure you’re breathing. If you’re holding your breath, you increase the anxiety you feel and increase the tension in your body. Make sure you’re breathing as you approach that descent, head into the turn, get swarmed – or any other situation that gets the butterflies going

If you’re having trouble getting back to that same confident and aggressive rider you were before your crash – you may need some expert support to help you get there. Thinking about quitting can be a natural consequence of experiencing an injury due to a crash. Whether you choose to continue is up to you, but if you are motivated to continue to ride or race and you’re just having trouble getting your head back in it – get in touch with a mental skills coach and get the skills and support you need to get back on the bike. That’s what we’re here for!

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Coping with Tragedy in Sporthttp://carriecheadle.com/coping-with-tragedy/ http://carriecheadle.com/coping-with-tragedy/#comments Fri, 13 May 2011 17:57:24 +0000 http://carriecheadle.com/blog/?p=379 If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, some of you may know that I recently spent 12 days in Athens, Georgia to hang out for Speed Week to do a little work, have a little fun, and watch my husband race in between! (For those of you who might not know, Speed Week is […]

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If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, some of you may know that I recently spent 12 days in Athens, Georgia to hang out for Speed Week to do a little work, have a little fun, and watch my husband race in between! (For those of you who might not know, Speed Week is a series of NRC crit races in the South and is kicked off with the Athens Twilight race.) The first race of the week for my husband was a qualifier for the Twilight race later in the evening. He took a spill during the qualifier, but got his free lap and still managed to place 8th and qualify for the race later that night. When I saw his helmet had been cracked into five pieces, I immediately started drilling him with questions to see if he had a concussion. He passed the test and I was very grateful that his helmet had done its job and kept his head safe. You may find this surprising since I LOVE working with cyclists and even specialize in working with cyclists, but I must admit that as much as I support my husband racing, I do have moments when I wonder if it’s worth it.

Nine days later, I was overcome with a heavy heart after hearing about the tragic death of cyclist Wouter Weylandt during the 3rd stage of the Giro D’Italia. Because cycling is such a community, people around the world were overcome with many different emotions upon hearing the news. When we hear about catastrophic crashes of our fellow cyclists, it’s normal to start to reevaluate and wonder if the risk is worth the reward. Some cyclists may even feel guilty for riding when there is someone else who no longer can. I’ve worked with many cyclists through the process of returning to racing after sustaining an injury due to a crash; it can be a huge challenge to get back mentally and get to the place where you are just as confident and aggressive as you were before the crash. Experiencing a crash or hearing about the death of a cyclist can make you feel vulnerable and possibly even make you wonder whether riding or racing is worth the risk. If you find yourself feeling this way, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • It’s OK to take time off: It’s normal to feel a little nervous and vulnerable when you see or hear about a crash. If you find that you don’t want to ride or feel tense and nervous while riding, you may just need to take a few days off the bike to get yourself back to homeostasis and regroup. When you do get on your bike, ease yourself back into it. First day back, do whatever sounds fun and then get back into training and racing.
  • It’s OK to not take time off: Some people may experience feelings of guilt when they get out for a training ride or start to look forward to next weekend’s race. It’s OK to ride and it’s OK to be excited about racing. For some cyclists, continuing to ride can be a way to pay tribute to someone who no longer can. Whatever you decide to do is OK. If it doesn’t feel right to ride, don’t ride. If it does feel right, go ride.
  • Don’t watch the footage: I went through some moments when I thought that I needed to witness what happened in order to honor a fallen rider. You don’t have to watch the footage of the crash. One of the downsides of having access to so much information is that we have access to information that doesn’t necessarily serve us. When you watch media coverage of a catastrophic event, you are subjecting yourself to a traumatic experience which can have a lasting impact.
  • Celebrate what you love: After a tragedy it is normal to reevaluate what is important to you. We are often so busy running from one moment to the next that we don’t take the time to step back and make sure we are living our values. The decision to continue to ride or not to ride in the face of tragedy or after injury is a personal one. No one can tell you what you should do, you can only figure out what is right for you and be OK with that.

If you do want to pay tribute to Wouter Weylandt’s memory, to his family, and to a sport that you love, there are many different ways you can do just that. Even if you didn’t know him, he is part of our cycling family and it may feel right to pay tribute in some way. You can go on a ride and take a moment off the bike in honor of his memory. You can go out on a ride with friends and take the time to tell them “Your friendship means a lot to me and I’m glad we’re friends.” and then grab a beer after the ride and toast to his memory. Or you can buy a memorial t-shirt from a very cool cycling friendly company that has created a very cool shirt that both pays tribute and helps Weylandt’s family.

Part of living a full life means living it while doing what you love. There are risks in many things that we do, but we can’t live in fear of the what-ifs. This is my truth and is right for me. You have to find your truth and what is right for you.

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Receiving (and gaining from) Feedbackhttp://carriecheadle.com/receiving-and-gaining-from-feedback/ http://carriecheadle.com/receiving-and-gaining-from-feedback/#comments Fri, 01 Apr 2011 17:05:25 +0000 http://carriecheadle.com/blog/?p=333 This is the second half of a post that was inspired by a video I saw documenting the pro cycling team Peanut Butter & Co. Twenty12. Part of the video shows the team during a post race debrief meeting in which Lauren Tamayo is sharing her honest evaluation of the team’s performance that day. Every race or […]

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This is the second half of a post that was inspired by a video I saw documenting the pro cycling team Peanut Butter & Co. Twenty12. Part of the video shows the team during a post race debrief meeting in which Lauren Tamayo is sharing her honest evaluation of the team’s performance that day. Every race or competition has valuable feedback lying within that experience – if you take the time to see it. Sometimes it’s hard to take in feedback, but it’s a necessary and valuable part of developing yourself as an athlete. Here are some tips for how to receive feedback from others and from yourself:

Receiving feedback from others:

  1. Ask for feedback:Be proactive about asking for feedback. You can actively seek out feedback from friends, coaches, and teammates. The best candidates are people whose opinions you value and trust, who care about your goals, and will be honest with what they say. If it stings, it’s because how you perform in your sport is something that’s important to you. When you seek out feedback – you may be more open to actually receiving it.
  2. Ask for clarification:When you commit to asking for clarification while getting feedback, you are committing to actively listening to the feedback you are receiving. When we receive feedback it can often be challenging to not get defensive. It’s hard sometimes to not let the way someone says something take away from the value of what they say. When the person giving you feedback isn’t a great communicator, it can be hard to take in the information they give you. When receiving feedback you don’t have to defend yourself or have an explanation. Know that some of the feedback will apply to you and some of it won’t. Ask for clarification instead of giving your opinion.

Receiving feedback from yourself:

    1. Deciphering what happened vs. how we feel about what happened:My most recent trail run race was not what I expected. My immediate feeling was of disappointment. The day after the race I started to reflect back to see what I could learn from the race. Our emotions, how we feel about an event, can become a cloud obstructing our view from getting feedback about what actually happened. Instead of just being upset about my race, I could look back and see some things I needed to take responsibility for and address. Don’t let your emotional filter get in the way of getting the information that you need.
    2. Take the time to do it.Taking the time to reflect on a performance is often neglected by athletes. When you just move from one competition to the next without getting any feedback, you’re just riding around in circles on the merry-go-round, hoping that at some point you’ll jump the track to find a better landscape. After every game or race, at a minimum, you should be asking yourself:

      • What did I do well?
      • What would I have done differently?
      • What did I learn that I want to carry forward into the next event?

You can’t improve your performance without knowing how you are doing relative to where you want to be. Receiving feedback is how we learn. It’s a skill that needs to be honed if you want to be deliberate about improving in your sport. When you ask for feedback and do it from a place of wanting to improve – it can be easier to take in someone else’s feedback and implement it to learn and improve on your performance.

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How to be a Good Teammatehttp://carriecheadle.com/are-you-a-good-teammate/ http://carriecheadle.com/are-you-a-good-teammate/#comments Fri, 04 Mar 2011 19:19:10 +0000 http://carriecheadle.com/blog/?p=309 Recently I watched the above video of a documentary series looking deeper into women’s pro cycling and featuring the pro cycling team Peanut Butter & Co. Twenty12. I decided to write a post on what it takes to be a good teammate. Lauren Tamayo is a World Record holder in the Team Pursuit, but that isn’t […]

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Recently I watched the above video of a documentary series looking deeper into women’s pro cycling and featuring the pro cycling team Peanut Butter & Co. Twenty12. I decided to write a post on what it takes to be a good teammate.

Lauren Tamayo is a World Record holder in the Team Pursuit, but that isn’t the most impressive thing about her. OK – it’s pretty impressive, but the coolest part of the video was hearing her teammates talk about her. Lauren’s Twenty12 teammates talked about how she is willing to work hard and that she expects her teammates to work hard as well. The other amazing part of the video is Lauren’s honesty during a post race debrief when she shares how she felt about their race and that she didn’t think they rode like a team. (She also has a super cool nickname, but you’ll have to watch the video to find out what it is.)

This video hits on two things that have been on my mind recently, how to be a good teammate and how to take feedback. I’ve decided to turn it into two posts and this post will cover a few tips on being a good teammate.

How to be a good teammate

  1. Be trustworthy. - When I work with teams, one of the things I am trying to help them do is build trust. With team sports, trust and respect are linked closely together. It’s more difficult and less satisfying to work for someone that you don’t respect and you don’t trust. If you want to build trust on your team, start by being trustworthy. When you’re teammates don’t slack off and do what they say they are going to do, you know you can trust them so make sure you are doing the same.
  2. Fight for each other’s success. –  It’s easier to fight for your teammates success when you know that your teammates value and appreciate your role on the team. One of the greatest parts of the video is hearing how Lauren’s teammates appreciate and value her role on the team and understand her role in their success. If you want to make sure that your role is appreciated and valued then you need to make sure that you are appreciating and valuing the roles of your teammates. If you don’t want to be a team player, don’t be on a team sport. There is a balance between taking care of yourself and taking care of your team and you need to be able to do both. When you can get to that place where you truly believe that your teammate’s win is your win, then you have a team.
  3. Be honest. – You are not doing your teammates any favors by not calling them out and not being honest. It can be difficult to do, but if you are sincere in your dealings with people, then they will listen when you have something to say. It takes courage to be the person that calls out your teammates or to be the one that says something that goes against the grain. If you show your teammates respect and they know that you have their best interest in mind, then they will listen to what you have to say. They may not enjoy the conversation, but it will sink in. It might be uncomfortable for everyone in the short run, but in the long run it can make you a better team. Before you can be honest, you have to be able to communicate. (And you have to be honest with yourself about your ability to communicate!) I’ll talk more about that in the next post!
  4. Your teammates are people too. – Don’t forget that your teammates exist outside of your team. Athletes need to know that they are valued outside of their sport too. You don’t have to be best friends with all of your teammates, but it doesn’t hurt to ask them about their life outside of their sport every once in a while. If you can’t think of anything to ask your teammates, try these question to get the conversation started:

  • Would you rather be three feet taller or three feet shorter?
  • Do you prefer Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip?
  • If you were stranded on a desert island, would you rather be stuck there with someone you hate, or be stuck their solo?
  • Which would you give up first, your phone or your email?

You can take it from there. My point is, if you want to be on a team surrounded by good teammates, make sure you are a good teammate too. If you haven’t watched the video yet, go watch it and then come back for my next post when I talk about how to take feedback!

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Amgen Rainy Day Stage 2http://carriecheadle.com/amgen-rainy-day-stage-2/ http://carriecheadle.com/amgen-rainy-day-stage-2/#comments Tue, 18 May 2010 22:31:48 +0000 http://carriecheadle.com/blog/?p=65 Stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California saw yet another rainy finish come into downtown Santa Rosa. I was so hopeful that by moving the tour to May we would have a beautiful day to watch the race, but alas… all the local cycling fans had to don their rain gear yet again and endure another wet day of race […]

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Amgen Tour of CA 2010Stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California saw yet another rainy finish come into downtown Santa Rosa. I was so hopeful that by moving the tour to May we would have a beautiful day to watch the race, but alas… all the local cycling fans had to don their rain gear yet again and endure another wet day of race spectating. I was glad to see that the rain didn’t scare everyone away!

Watching Stage 2 of 2010 Tour of CaliforniaThis is a picture of me (holding the umbrella) and my friend Liz Bernstein (who heads up the Bike MS Waves-to-Wine ride), trying to stay dry as we wait for the pack to come in! It was fun for me to see all of the people coming out to watch the race. I love cycling and working with cyclists and I love to see the sport getting more popular. It was also fun for me to get out and watch a stage of the tour. I have moments where I can just be a fan, but most of the time when I watch a race I see it through my “sport psychology” lens. I saw the look of a long grueling day on the faces of the riders as they came around the corner of 4th and B and I wondered how the rest of the stage had played out.

Even though the conditions were similar to last year, it was a very different finish. I often see athletes gauge their success based on how they did in the same event the previous year. Watching the finish of Stage 2 is a good reminder that you can’t always do a straight comparison of a race from one year to the next. Conditions are different, your competitors are different, the course may be different… Instead of asking the question “Did I do better than last year?” you may be better off asking, “Did I do everything I could to set myself up to be successful today? Is there anything I could have done differently that would have changed the outcome? Is there anything I could have done to be more prepared?”

In Lance Armstrong’s book, Every Second Counts, he describes the morning of the first mountain stage during the 2000 Tour de France. “On the morning of the stage, I awoke to a freezing rain. I hopped out of bed and threw back the curtains, and I burst out laughing. ‘Perfect,’ [he] said. It was suffering weather, the kind that could defeat a lot of guys as soon as they got up in the morning. ” While his competitors groaned and dreaded the upcoming day, Lance celebrated because he had trained on that exact mountain pass, under those exact conditions. He had an edge over his competitors before the stage even began.

Hopefully the guys will have great weather for the rest of the tour, but the point is that it shouldn’t matter. What matters is that you stay in the moment and do what needs to be done under the current conditions in order to have your best race. If you feel like your race could have gone better, take that in as information to build on and then wash your hands of it, get back into the moment, and get ready for the next stage.

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Winning When You Losehttp://carriecheadle.com/winning-when-you-lose/ http://carriecheadle.com/winning-when-you-lose/#comments Wed, 24 Mar 2010 23:50:59 +0000 http://carriecheadle.com/blog/?p=29 Recently I had the opportunity to fly down to see the first stage of the San Dimas Stage Race in Glendora, CA.  My post today was inspired by a quote I read from Mara Abbott in an article on cyclingnews.com about the 3rd stage of the race.  Mara held onto the leader’s jersey until the final […]

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Recently I had the opportunity to fly down to see the first stage of the San Dimas Stage Race in Glendora, CA.  My post today was inspired by a quote I read from Mara Abbott in an article on cyclingnews.com about the 3rd stage of the race.  Mara held onto the leader’s jersey until the final stage where Ina-Yoko Teutenberg had an outstanding performance that led her to the victory.  As Mara talks about her experience at the race she says:

“Racing is a process and if you win a race you learn stuff and you celebrate. If you lose a race you learn too and you probably learn more. Even though it is disappointing to lose, I wanted to win… you can’t win them all. You have to try to take what you can from the loss.”

Whether you win or lose, each competition provides an opportunity to build on your performance if you are open to learning from it.  Athletes who are open and willing to reflect and learn, will progress quicker than those who aren’t.  Being open to learning from a loss takes discipline, humility, resilience, and a willingness to look at your performance through an observer’s eyes.  It asks you to step back from the emotion involved and honestly evaluate your performance.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t feel frustration, anger, or disappointment at a loss.  Those emotions let you know that you take pride in your performance.  What’s important is how you use those emotions moving forward.  If you take a lesson from Mara Abbott, you will feel the frustration then take a deep breath and figure out what you can take away from the experience.

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