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Want to Improve as an Athlete? Find Your Self Confidence.

January 10, 2020

Want to Improve as an Athlete? Find Your Self Confidence.

"...the biggest limiter is what happens to athletes between their ears; self-confidence."

by Alison Powers, ALP Cycles Coaching

At a recent event, to talk about and grow women's cycling, I was asked what the biggest limiter I see that athletes have to overcome to achieve success. My thoughts went right away to things like; kids, a demanding job, lack of financial resources, living in a place that's challenging to get quality training, etc. But the more I thought about it, I realized motivation can overcome hurdles like these. Schedules can get made, resources found, trips to train can be made. No, the biggest limiter is what happens to athletes between their ears; self-confidence.

Over the past 10 years of coaching, directing, and managing a women's cycling team, I have come to realize that there are 3 types of athletes:

Athlete #1 - The athlete who excels on race day. This athlete works hard and does everything right in training. When it's race day, they bring their 'A' game and rise above their training level. They are ready to perform and have the confidence to do so. 

Athlete #2 - The athlete who excels in training. This athlete works hard and ALP Cycles Coaching - Alison Fat Bike"does everything right in training. However, when race day comes, they become a shell of their training level. They lose all self-confidence to succeed and instead focus on not failing. 

Athlete #3 - The athlete does not excel. This athlete does not excel in training or racing. They don't have the self-confidence to challenge themself in either training or racing. This athlete is very afraid of failure (and sometimes success) and because of this, they never see their hard work come to fruition. 

It would be nice (and easy) if everyone were in the Athlete #1 category. Unfortunately, not many athletes are and these athletes have to really focus on their "headspace" and self-confidence both in the race, before the race, and most importantly, in training both on and off the bike.

As a bike racer, I was often Athlete #1. I brought my best on race day and felt ready to win no matter what the race I entered or how my energy levels were. How did I get to this level of self-confidence? I practiced. During training, I often did things that were out of my comfort zone. I trained my weaknesses (repeated anaerobic efforts, climbs steeper than 10%). I rode with faster people, I rode in the cold, I road in the heat, I road in the morning, I road in the night, I road technical things, I road easy things. If it was something I didn't like or wasn't good at, I forced myself to do it. I did hard and uncomfortable things until soon they became comfortable and "normal". I did mental imagery almost every day. I imagined myself riding smoothly, riding fast, having good legs at the end of the race, overcoming fears of a bunch sprint, holding wheels, moving up through the pack, having confidence on race day, etc. Race days were a chance to show off all my hard work and that got me excited. If something happened, and I failed on race day, while it was a bummer, at the end of the day, it was ok. Failure was a chance to learn and get better for the next race.

If you are reading this and find that you fall into either the Athlete #2 or Athlete #3 category, I encourage you to start working on your self-confidence. You can train as hard as you want to. You can spend all $$ and make the correct sacrifices, but if you don't bring it on race day, it will all be for nothing. 

The more you can grow your comfort zone and feel comfortable doing a variety of things, the more confident you will be. Challenge yourself. Challenge your comfort zone. Challenge and fix your weaknesses. Challenge yourself as a cyclist and athlete. Make yourself become better and take that confidence into 2020.

 

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ABOUT ALISON POWERS

Alison Powers

Alison Powers only recently retired from cycling, finishing her final season on the UnitedHealthcare Women’s Team. Her career has spanned a wide array of wins, including the 2013 USA Cycling Professional Criterium National Championship where she won in memorable fashion by soloing after an early breakaway that obliterated the pro women’s peloton. Other standout results during the 33-year-old’s 2013 season include the win at Redlands Bicycle Classic, second at the Tour of Elk Grove, third at the US National Road Championship and the US National Time Trial Championship, and stage wins at Cascade Classic, Tulsa Tough, Tour of the Gila and Redlands Bicycle Classic. Hailing from Fraser, Colorado, Powers has been racing bikes professionally for eight years and is a true athlete with her career beginning as a teenager in mountain bike racing. In her mid-20s, she added in alpine ski racing before switching over to the road. In addition to being the current Criterium National Champion, Powers has two other national championships (Time Trial, Team Pursuit) and 2 NRC titles (2009, 2013).

About ALP Cycles Coaching

ALP Cycles Coaching is located in the mountains of Colorado, and is a cycling coaching company with over 25 years of professional sports experience. ALP Cycles Coaching is unique in that we have 4 coaches, Alison Powers, Shawn Heidgen, Jennifer Triplett, and Patricia Schwager who each brings her own coaching strengths and personal experiences. We work together to create a training plan that works for each and every person. Visit them online at http://alpc




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