I think most athletes are more mindful than they think; specifically cyclists and triathletes, but most triathletes and cyclists don’t recognize this and therefore can’t use their skills intentionally in sport and life. I came to this insight while observing myself and other cyclists climbing up Mt. Diablo this morning.
Mindfulness is developing the awareness in the present moment without falling into judgment or impulsive reactions, with the goal of being effective and efficient in the moment. For example, we are being mindless when we look at the pace on our bike computer or wattage and automatically judge it as “good” or “bad” and then allow it to attach to our self-esteem or to our worthiness as an athlete’s and so on. The goal of becoming a mindful athlete is to be efficiently responsive in each moment, meaning our choices in each moment are based on wisdom of all the information available to us in any given moment and are not being dictated by impulsive feelings or emotional reactions, aka “autopilot reactions.”
I realized that those of us riding up the mountain this morning intuitively shift gears, decrease or increase speed and effort based upon analyzing “input” of the road, wind, conditions, our bodies etc. For example, I don’t know that many cyclists consciously recognize that when shifting into a higher gearing when they encounter a steeper grade and then down shift on the descent that they are actually being mindful. They are intuitively and efficiently sensing the pressure of their pedal stroke on their foot, the intensity of effort increase by recognizing sensations in their legs, heart rate, visual information such as other riders or the grade of the road increase or info on their bike computer. They are sensing and quickly analyzing all the information/input to be most efficient while going uphill/downhill. That’s pretty amazing to me! In the process we experience the joy and challenge of climbing up this grand mountain going above the clouds!
However, the flip side is when athletes don’t recognize they have these skills (and therefore cannot employ them when needed), they become vulnerable to mindless autopilot reactions such as negative self-talk like, “Oh my god it’s so hot. I should have left earlier. This sucks!” “I suck at climbing. My cadence is too slow. This hill never ends. I should train more” “Awe man I’m getting passed. I must be going really slow!” These reactions hijack your focus and feelings in the moment and can lead to a miserable riding experience riding up a beautiful mountain.
So athletes, remember, “you can’t change what you are not aware of” so I challenge you to be more aware of autopilot reactions and empower yourself to be mindful and intentional about what you say, do, think, and feel. Remember “feelings are not facts” and not all thoughts are facts so being mindful and choose your focus wisely and mindfully.
Mindfulness is not just sitting in lotus pose and meditating all day. It’s an active process of getting the best of life (and sport) and of our selves in every God-given moment. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine, but with mindfulness we are present to all that is and deeply trust in ourselves in the moment. That’s exactly what I think most of us want when we go out for a ride, a run, or a swim – to trust ourselves to get the best of ourselves in each mile, minute, yard, or race. Shine on and keep reaching for your peak!
A few pics from today’s adventures