'You can’t control heat, altitude and distance, but you can control what you say to yourself': 6 ways to think yourself faster

However flawless your physical preparation, the mind has a tendency to throw a spanner in the works come the big day. James Witts offers six ways to keep the brain onside with the body

Female cyclist rides solo in summer training kit
(Image credit: Future)

Your thighs are burning, your calves are aching and your lower back is creaking like the proverbial rusty gate – don’t you just love what cycling does to your body? Or should we say, your mind? Where do you actually feel that pain? It might stem from your peripheral nerves but it’s your brain that interprets and reacts. As many of you will know from the psychological arc endured on long days in the saddle, cycling success – be it completing or competing – is as much about what happens up top as it is about what happens below. 

The mysterious nature of pain affects all cyclists across the board, from the apprehensive commuter heading out into the rain, to the elite racer seeking Tour de France glory. It’s why, for this feature, we’ve tapped into the mental resources of those in the know, from a WorldTour rider to world-class sports psychologist, to reveal the psychological strategies you can use to help deliver peak physical performance.

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James Witts

James Witt s is a Somerset-based cycling writer, keen amateur cyclist and author of Riding with the Rocketmen (Bloomsbury, £14.99)