Creak . . . creak . . . creak . . . Imagine that noise boring through your eardrums and into your head. You’re on an epic climb. It’s so long, so steep, and totally exposed, without an inch of shade. And all you can think about is that obnoxious creaking noise coming from your bottom bracket. That noise kicks off other thoughts in your mind, feelings of frustration, anger, fatigue, and pain.
You’re pedaling a bike up that climb, but are you really riding it?
I would argue that you aren’t. Your mind is off in another place. You aren’t focused on the effort, and chances are, that means you’re not riding to the level that you had planned to do. Maybe you’re not staying above your Power Floor for the day’s workout. Or this could be happening during a race that you’d planned and trained for over the last couple months. And instead of focusing on the effort, keeping your mind in control, that creak was the first crack that led you to a point where you aren’t in control mentally . . . and you’re off the back.
We are all distracted by creaking bottom brackets at certain points in our lives as cyclists—both real and metaphorical. In fact, I’ve consistently found that many of my CINCH clients and other cyclists I’ve met face similar challenges that go beyond the physiology of cycling and tap into the psychology of the sport.
These cyclists, with their raw fitness, good nutrition, and execution skills, were missing the fourth pillar. They were building a house without a strong mental foundation. I almost wanted to start this book with the Focus pillar because it is so fundamental. It sets you up to manage the rest of the stuff that comes with being a competitive cyclist. The Focus pillar of the FORM method is your foundation, and if you don’t have Focus, you don’t have anything to stand on when a ride or race gets truly tough. From what I’ve seen, the people who fall apart and give up on racing aren’t building on the strong foundation that comes from the Focus pillar.
When those people are cycling, they’re constantly asking their bodies for feedback—how do my legs feel? Am I breathing too hard? Why is my bottom bracket creaking? You’re taught to look for these things. It’s good to be aware, but you shouldn’t actively look for that feedback in the moment and let it creep into your mental state. Ideally, you should assess it before or after the ride. In the midst of a workout or a ride, you should be just driving with your brain, using it to direct your body’s effort, not the other way around.
Your mind can only think one thought at a time. In these creaky bottom bracket moments, it is wandering away from the task of driving your body on the bike. Instead of letting it get away from you like that, I’m going to teach you a mental concentration practice that will center your mind on the thoughts you need for peak performance.
Cycling has lots of distractions, and in the Focus pillar of the FORM Method, I will teach you to push away that noise. With this system, you’ll essentially train your mind to withstand the toughest rides and races on your calendar and harness its power to govern your effort.
This is your mental training plan.
The FORM Core Performance Qualities (CPQ) are like your mind’s 10 key workouts to build your FOCUS pillar. Whether it’s before your ride, during a workout, or when you wake up in the morning, you should consistently devote yourself to these mantras using Black Line Clarity (BLC), a mental tool I’ve developed to help you check in and prime your brain for the day’s effort.
Like any other training plan, consistency and repetition are key to truly getting the benefits of the Focus pillar. To a certain extent, this practice is a way to reprogram your mental approach to challenges. You probably have some established beliefs about yourself and what you can do. What I want you to get out of the Focus pillar is a new set of beliefs that are based on repeated thoughts, over and over, that put you in the state of mind to succeed at cycling and life in general.
I have met enough cyclists over the years to know that some of you will be skeptical of this pillar of the FORM Method. It’s easy to look at a tough training plan and get excited by its potential, but something like the CPQ tends to make people roll their eyes. Well, don’t roll your eyes! You can trust me when I say that this is the most crucial element of the FORM Method. Ignore it and you’ll never reach your full potential. To really drive that message home, I’m going to introduce each CPQ with a common complaint that I’ve heard from riders. I am sure that you’ve felt at least one of them at a point in your life as a cyclist.
We believe that mastering your mind and emotions is key to unlocking new potential in your body. Using our FORM Performance Method we will coach you to new levels of mental performance by creating a solid mindset foundation. This includes developing the ability to create useful emotional states on demand, reframing limiting beliefs about yourself and developing Proactive and Reactive mental processes for you on and off the bike.
We see the mental performance in two parts. We educate and coach you in the following Mindset areas:
- How to create a razor-sharp focus on demand.
- How to “check-in” and “check-out.”
- How to find your purpose with the sport of cycling.
- How to better understand how the sport of cycling benefits your life.
- How to create goals that will lead you towards the outcome you want.
- How to create a feeling of fulfillment from your progress.
- How hard work and determination always prevail.
- How to ignite passion in your life.
- How to improve the relationship you have with yourself.
- How to improve your self-accountability.
- How to be resourceful to find success with what you have.
- How to create inspiration from within.
- How to pursue constant progression.
- How to overcome fear and anxiety.
- How to process and use failure to progress forward.
- How to pivot under times of stress.
- How to use ownership to overcome disappointment.
- How to take calculated risks.
- How to enjoy the journey to not obsess about the destination.
- How to create hope in the face of despair.
- How to transform pain into progress.
- How to use cycling to release stress.
- How to use breathing techniques to control physical states.
- How to use gratitude to optimize your ability to endure hard work and sacrifice.
- How to improve your self-confidence.
- How to manage feelings of vulnerability.
- How to have a positive relationship with competition.