Suffering: It's all about motivation
At its core, the difference between finishing first and finishing at all comes down to who’s got a better handle on suffering.
do to him, but what he was going to do in the race. This faith allowed him to race to his fullest potential.
The next time your teeth are chattering during a ride through the cold rains of spring remember this: Research has shown that environmental stress, primarily the weather, which affects everyone around you, tends to impact your brain before it starts actually messing with your body’s physical condition.
When that first raindrop hits your face, do you think about how much the rest of this ride is going to suck, or do you realize that a bone-chilling downpour is the perfect opportunity to throw down the hammer and put the hurt on the pack? How you react determines how much suffering you’re willing to endure.
For the specific sport of cycling, this refers to your capacity to handle various tactical situations as they appear. By the sheer volume of their competitive experience, elite athletes posses a greater base of knowledge they can draw from to help them overcome a tactical move that may look to you like a recipe for a sufferfest. They’ve learned that holding on to the last breakaway won’t kill them. By adding to your bank of experience, you too will learn the same knowledge.
The Feedback Loop
Throw all these factors together and you’ve got the formula for enduring when others crack. The cool thing about motivation is that, if it stays strong, it creates a positive feedback loop which turns motivation into resolve and makes the pain and suffering easier to tolerate.
A perfect example of this feedback loop occurred with Jed Schneider from the University of Kansas, who was riding to a second place in the 2001 Collegiate National Road Race Championship in Colorado Springs. He rode the final lap of the course within eyesight of the eventual first place finisher. Thanks to the positive feedback from sticking close to the man ahead, Jed was continuously motivated to ride at his absolute best—and suffer mightily—to try and close the gap. A podium finish was his reward.
Adam Mills is a Senior Coach with Carmichael Training Systems, Inc. (CTS) and an experienced competitor in national-level road, mountain, and cyclocross races. To find out what CTS can do for you, visit www.trainright.com.