Overcoming your fears

I am frequently asked, “What is the most common observation in athletes that needs improvement?”  Well, I am no psychologist (although I do have an excellent recommendation), but the answer is very simple, most athletes just need to learn how to RELAX both physically and mentally; to chill, to let it go, to have more fun, to kick it!

 The Problem (or Opportunity) 

What I see is both a physical and mental “tightness” when an athlete lacks self-confidence in the task he or she is about to take on.  Most athletes have some sort of fear in cycling (or running or swimming), whether it is climbing, descending, pack riding, or field sprints.  Physically, this is manifested with stiff, straight arms, or white knuckles. This tightness leads to decreased performance because excess energy is used to control the fear.  Shallow breathing develops and decreases performance even more.  From a mental standpoint, the athlete loses focus, gets short-tempered, and is pretty much doing everything counter-productive to successfully achieving his or her goal.  We’ve all been there, when we have had that feeling of failure before we even start, and in turn became our own nemesis!

 The Solution

The good news is there is a solution.  I won’t lie to you and say it’s easy, because it isn’t.  The key is to just RELAX.  Of course, it’s easier said than done, but just think about it for a minute.  You work so hard on the bike (running/swimming). You investigate every physical workout possible, looking for the magic.  You dedicate yourself to achieving your goals, and everything seems to go up in smoke because of nerves.  Don’t get me wrong, nerves are good.  Nerves tell us that we are capable of doing well in threatening situations. On the other hand, like anything else, too much of a good thing can be detrimental.

 The first thing to do is next time you are out riding and come into one of these situations is to first recognize it.  As an example: let’s take a narrow, twisty, screaming decent (like the canyons on Highway 49 in Auburn.)  You’re riding with your friends and all of a sudden you realize this descent is coming up in the next couple miles.  You are already making excuses to yourself that you will be behind at the bottom of the descent. You drift away from the conversation as your mind is beginning to be occupied with negative thoughts.   You start the downhill and you notice you are gripping the bars like there is no tomorrow.  Your breathing is shallow, you take strange lines through the corners that no one in their right mind would, and your friends disappear ahead of you in an instant! You get to the bottom and your friends are going slow, chatting about something, and waiting for YOU.  You feel awkward and wish you could just descend the way they do.  The thing is, you can!  All you have to do is gain confidence through learning to RELAX.  

 Here are four tips to help you overcome these types of situations:

  • Patience, remember most importantly that it takes time.  Miracles of the mind don’t occur overnight.

  • Small steps - Try this experiment.  The next few days you ride, concentrate on just one part of your body to relax throughout the ride.  For example, focus on relaxing your arms.  Don’t worry about anything else, just the arms. Then, the next day, concentrate on your facial muscles and go through the same drill.  Take a lesson from the golfers who work on just one component at a time, as they do with their swing.  Continue doing this each day.

  • Talk it up – Take the specific fear to your friends, coach, wife, husband or whoever will listen and care.  Talk it out. Have them help you. Sometimes talking about an issue helps verbalized something you haven’t been able to put into words. Don’t feel like you have to overcome the fear on your own.  It’s amazing what how talking about a problem will help solve it.

  • Get some help from a qualified coach - When we do our 1:1 workouts, we specifically address these situations. For example, with both climbing and descending, there are specific form techniques and strategies that can be worked on and perfected.

 Learn to relax and it’s amazing how you will change for the better, both physically and mentally. And all that effort you put into accomplishing your goals will be realized and you will have more fun doing it!



Our Three Pillars of Bike Fitting Success

Trust me when I say, every bike fit really is unique to each person.   Each rider requires a different focus with some combination of elements that will allow them to leave with a fit best suited for their riding style, goals, and body type.  

The benefit of using a high tech tool like Retül's 3D motion analysis system, is it gives us an accurate assessment while in motion (pedaling) of where you sit on the bike relative to the geometry and components.  Secondly, it allows us to accurately track changes. For example, when you tilt a saddle, how does that affect your position relative to the bottom bracket?  

Let's look at it another way:  When you visit your doctor, wouldn't you rather have him or her use the best technology to assess a potential problem you may have? Think of Retul as the MRI or echo cardiogram of bike fitting.  Like those medical devices, they don't tell the doctor what to do, but give him or her accurate data and information to assess your situation and take the proper course of action.  Over the years, after doing over 1500+ fits using this great tool, we have developed three pillars of bike fitting that help us guide each fit:

  1. Comfort - The goal is to eliminate discomfort or pain.  Comfort may come in the form of part changes, like a saddle or new Footbalance inserts or adjustments to help eliminate numbness (most popular) and/or back pain.  More often than not, eliminating pain has to be approached off the bike too, first, by identifying exactly what the issue is.  For example, you can't fix a sound in your engine of your car without knowing what is causing it.  This is specifically why we spend a significant amount of time prior to each fit discussing each rider's situation and what they are trying to accomplish with their fitting.  We have you also fill out a history questionnaire prior to your appointment so we can be prepared for your visit, ready to tackle any problems.
  2. Performance - Getting the most of the bike's geometry and how the athlete sits or stands on their bike.  Are you getting the most power per pedal stroke?   Many riders are setup incorrectly for their given frame geometry.  The trick is finding the balance between you and the geometry to make sure overall comfort is attained.
  3. Safety -  Could be the most important (and overlooked) element of bike fitting. So many riders we see are not weight-distributed on the bike correctly.  Too little or too much weight in the wrong area.   Once we address that issue, the bike can do what it’s meant to do these days; handle well and thus open the door to better safety.

Remember, all three of these elements are  interlaced.   We have to approach each one like a chess board square, but make sure we are taking the complete picture into account.  And that is why ever bike fit is unique to each person!  

Visit us to get your bike fitting solution!  Or if you are looking to purchase a new bike, we can pre-fit you and assist in purchasing the right bike for you! 


Is setting goals enough?

Obviously, setting goals is a major "to do" when it comes to coaching endurance athletes.  With 20+ years of experience, setting realistic goals that are attainable for each unique athlete has become more of a creative art.    

At Athleticamps, we focus on two specific categories.  More improtantly though, there is an underlying principle or philosophy that we apply  to those two categories that help our athletes achieve them.   We will discuss this principle later in the article. First, let's discuss the two categories:

  • Event goals - Setting event goals are pretty straightforward. Perhaps you want to do a specific event like the Markleeville Death ride.  Or you want to peak for a specific race or set of races.  Basically looking at the calendar and giving yourself enough time is the primary prerequisite.  And as a coach, making sure you are capable of those events is obviously important.  For example, if a development racer says he wants to do the Tour de France next year, I would have to pat him on the back and say, "I like your enthusiasm, but let's set that one a bit longer out in the future" :-) 
  • Physiological or training goals - We believe there is a lot of value in  tracking progress through performance testing (indoors) and data analysis (outdoors).  A simple analogy would be businesses setting revenue and expense goals and reviewing them quarterly to see if they are on track or not.  Or if you work with a investment planner, you would want to meet with that person and see how your money is doing and what particulars made your net worth go up or down, hopefully up.  Why wouldn't athletes treat their training and goals the same way?  This aspect of your program is a bit more tricky and in-depth in that it involves understanding the athlete, their background, and personality.  But as a coach, this is what we love and enjoy and do on a daily basis.  There is no simple canned approach because every athlete is different and requires different "ingredients" to improve.  And again, just like with event goals, it requires a knowledgeable coach that can help you navigate through all the training philosophies and "stuff" you read and listen to and make things as simple as possible.

As important as understanding that we need to set these two categories of goals, there is an underlying principle that needs to be applied and is much more important: Teaching proper training techniques.  

Through my experience, goals are achieved not by solely focusing on statements like "let's get you to 300w for a 20' power test" or "You want to ride 21mph or 50 miles".  They are achieved by teaching athletes how to train properly. The goals are a byproduct of that philosophy.   Don't get me wrong, the two categories of goals are important to every program, as that is the light at the end of the tunnel.  But it's teaching how to navigate through that tunnel which is more important.  

We love athletes that not only want to achieve goals, but want to learn how to train properly and ask the proper questions.  After all, you as an athlete are out there dedicating the time and sweat . It's important to  understand what you are doing and why.  Being a coach is also about being an educator.

We believe that our unique environment at Athleticamps fosters this philosophy.  We are not just a training center with over 20+ years of experience, we are a think tank and learning center. We offer all the ingredients needed to make your individual recipe work!  We love athletes take on challenges, want to learn and understand that being a successful athlete includes setting goals and knowing there are ups and downs when achieving their goals.

Stop by, say hello and let's talk about teaching you what it takes to get there!

Ride safe, ride strong....


Why did I crash?

The worst kind of crash is the one leaving us with the very question; how did this happen?


Nothing invokes more fear and trepidation about getting back on the bike than not understanding why we crashed in the first place.  If we don’t know the reason for the crash, how are we to ensure it doesn’t happen again?

As a result of a crash, one of two scenarios typically happen:

1.     We stop riding in situations that are similar to which were present when we crashed.  For example, if we crashed while descending, we stop choosing routes that have significant descents.   If we crashed on a group ride, we may avoid riding with friends and teammates.

2.     We muster up the strength to get back on the bike and convince ourselves that it won’t happen again and simply hope for the best.

Either of these two choices has negative ramifications.  If we choose to alter the type of riding we do to avoid the possibility of crashing; we allow fear and uncertainty to rob us of our passion.  Secondly, if we jump right back onto the bike without a full understanding what caused the crash, we are asking for trouble and may end up with a short lived cycling hobby as the potential for injury is high.

So what is the solution to safe and confident riding?

Check the ego at the door
Understand that just because we’ve ridden bikes from a very early age, that doesn’t mean that we were taught the key fundamentals of safe riding.  We often hear, “I’ve been riding all sorts of bikes my whole life.   I know what I’m doing.”   While that is most often the case, how many were taught these key safety components

  • Utilizing proper vision
  • Understanding energy/weight dynamics
  • Understanding and establishing the true apex on different types of turns
  • Using reference points to your advantage
  • How counter steering plays a role in cornering a bike
  • How to protect yourself during a group ride
  • Most of us were not taught any of these essential skills that are the essential ingredients to safe riding.

Invest in yourself and make the commitment
You’ve spent thousands of dollars on an amazing bicycle and have the best gear to match. You have committed to the sport of cycling and hope to continue for a lifetime.  Recognize that you may further enjoy cycling with the additional competence, confidence, and safety that learning bike skills provides.

Understand that learning skills is just that, it’s a learning process and it takes time.   Everyone starts at a different skill level and progresses at different rates.   It’s just like using your phone to find and drive somewhere.  Know where you are starting, where you are going and how to get there.

In summary, these two elements are necessary to become a safer, and a more competent bike rider. You must be open to the idea that there is more to this thing that simply doing what you have always done. Albert Einstein said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results”.

We love teaching bike handling skills at Athleticamps. We have built a proven method that has a long history of helping riders become safer, confident, and subsequently more effective on the bike.

To learn more about us and our S.A.F.E approach to helping riders become better at handling the bicycle in all conditions, click here.

Ride safe, ride strong

The Athleticamps coaching team