Psychology of Preparation

the obree way

A thought is like a thing. Everything we have and do began as a thought. The bike you ride and the fact that you ride that bike started with a thought. The entirety of psychology is about what we think and about how we choose to act on those thoughts. We can generally choose what kind of thoughts we have, either positive or negative, and we can choose our actions based on those thoughts. We need not be controlled by our thoughts. We can take control of our thoughts and how we are affected by them. If we gather up our positive thoughts and motives into one bundle we could call it 'passion'.

Passion is a sentiment that is more usually spoken about in the arts than the world of sport. It gets swept aside in the swirl of real and tangible things like training plans and equipment choice etc. These are real actual things indeed but so too are thoughts and emotions and attitudes. Passion, the desire to immerse your-self in the field of endeavour that you love, is the foremost and most positive driving force of all.

Every single person who competes on a bicycle is passionate about this sport. You spend a good part of your income to do this as well as a huge amount of time and energy. Then there are the sacrifices, like things that you won't eat and the social functions you miss in order to be at your best. If that is not passionate about the sport then what is it? It is nothing other than passion, and if you struggle to place yourself in the world of the passionate then it is not because you don't belong there. It is because you have been swept along in the world of the physical act of doing. It may be you have never stopped to consider why you do it and how much it means to you. It may be that you have forgotten how passionate you are by the passage of time. Either way, the desire within you to do this sport is an energy and a positive force so long as we are in touch with it at a conscious level.

the obree way

While you are reading this your thinking self has no choice but to be focused on why you want to do this as well as how much you want to do this. How much you want to do anything is a matter of choice and if you accept that this is the first and by far the most important thing that you do for yourself then the answer is clear. Let me encourage you to be selfish for the moment and set aside family, friends, work and other commitments and think just about you. The question now has to be whether you do your sport because you kind of want to or because you passionately love it and this is absolutely the most important thing you can do for yourself. The only correct answer is that you totally want to do this because you can choose your attitude. From this moment there really only can be one attitude to the sport you love. If it is the case that you can only master indifference then you have to ask yourself whether the sacrifices you make are worth it and whether you ought to go and do something else. I have told you about passion and about how we can choose our attitude. Please take a moment and assess your commitment to a more productive and accurate attitude.

I wrote earlier about having a choice of thoughts and attitude. This holds true in the issue of thinking positively or negatively in regard to how we are thinking we are about to perform in an upcoming event. A negative attitude to what we think the end result will be in an event is not an accurate assessment of our true potential. It may be that predictions of sub-standard results have proven to be accurate in the past. This accuracy of prediction only serves to reinforce the negative thoughts pattern and this can become an entrenched attitude that is very hard to break out of. At times when a better than expected result compared to the prediction of worse occurs this also reinforces a negative cycle since the feeling of success is based on low expectation from the start.

The route out of a negative thought pattern or to avoid negative thoughts creeping in is to analyse and understand the cause and effect of it. It is easy to believe that the prediction of a poor result and then that result taking place is simply a case of honest assessment of the inevitable.

the obree way

This is not true! No result is inevitable. If we believe that we have some control over our results by the way we think about the possible outcome beforehand then we can use our minds to make that result better than it would have been. The first most important thought in the step towards banishing negativity is that we have absolute control over our performance by the way we think before and during an event.

Obviously the power of thought will not enable you to do more than your physical capability at that time. Few of us, though, ever output our absolute potential in an event no matter how hard we think we are trying and the difference that positive thinking makes is how close to that potential we can get before our mind tells us we can do no more. This phenomenon is most striking in survivors of shipwrecks and similar disasters. Some people have survived the most extreme conditions where others perish sometimes driven by the sheer force of personality, the power of the mind of the survivors. If you believe this is true of survival then you MUST believe it is true of sport.

The simple fact of believing the power of thought will make a difference, has already made you a better rider.

The other thought that you must accept into your direct thinking process in the battle against negativity is similar to the first. When you accept that your mind can work for you or against you then you have to accept the logical conclusion. If no result is pre-determined or inevitable then it is clear that negative thoughts about the result are very much self-fulfilling prophecies; you think you will perform badly so you DO perform badly.

the obree way

Besides when you consider that cycling is what you do for yourself as your pastime and sport, then it is something you ought to gain positivity and ultimately pleasure from. Negative thoughts also permeate into other aspects of your life and can affect your general demeanour as a person and can affect your outlook on other aspects of life.

Positive thinking is not an instant easy alternative to suddenly switch to even if you accept everything I stated already. If negative thinking has been a pattern then it takes time and effort to counter it before it can become your habitual way. The best way to combat a bad thought process is to counter it every time with what realistically could be your best possible result. A lot of negative thinking is also centred on things that actually you have no control over at all; for example getting a puncture or another competitor performing better than expected. What you must do is prepare as best you can for any obvious eventualities and then actively refuse to think about them. This is sometimes not easy but a good technique is to replace those thoughts with positive ones about things that you can control, like how long you want to warm up for or where you want to make your best effort.

copyright graeme obree 2011. no unauthorised reproduction permitted.

first extract: what is training?

posted monday 12 september 2011


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