How stress affects your cycling and triathlon performance

Being stressed is not always bad for your performance.  It can help you be more alert, focussed, more motivated to train, and it can even help you perform at your optimal level during competition. Unfortunately, too much stress can cause anxiety, leading to tension, distraction and a drop in confidence within your events.

Performance anxiety during your event can come from the following:

    • To much focus on the outcome of your event

  • Excess mental chatter or negative self-talk
  • Fear of failing
  • Fear of crashing
  • Concerns about the course
  • Worrying about what your competitors are going to do
  • Not performing up to expectations
  • Not feeling fully confident with doubts creeping in
  • A poor warm up before your race
  • Worrying about performing well in the “big event”
  • Worrying about injury
  • Feeling intimidated by the quality of the competition

Every cyclist and triathlete who competes experiences some stress; good and bad. Your stress may be positive and helpful or filled with apprehension leading to greater anxiety.

Pre-Race nerves may cause you to lose sleep the night before your event or kill your appetite the morning of the event.  Neither one of these symptoms is good for your performance, so it is worth finding a way of controlling your anxiety. Feeling physically ill before you start is never good!

You want to feel a level of excitement in anticipation of the challenge.  An increased level of arousal will help you perform at your peak but too much or too little can have a negative effect.  To illustrate this I have included the diagram which demonstrates the Inverted U hypothesis.  Your ability to cope effectively with pre-event nerves is critical to consistent peak performance.


Sources of Stress in Cycling and triathlon

Everyone is slightly different in how they handle stress and what causes you to become anxious or stressed is different than what another athlete experiences. Worry, stress, anxiety, or tension can come from several sources depending on your personality and your past experiences.

I find that a lot of cyclists and triathletes who come to see me with anxiety related problems worry about not being able to perform to what is expected of them. They tend to be concerned with not being able to match the goals and expectations set by themselves or from others, such as coaches or club mates.  I have also worked with a lot of athletes who have anxiety due to specific problems such as a lack of confidence in a bunch, cornering or have fears about crashing out.

Having clear, realistic and measurable performance goals is a good start to reducing your pre-event anxiety. Some others include:

  • Be prepared and packed the night before
  • Practice positive self talk
  • Have a routine
  • Perform mental rehearsal
  • Know the course

If you would like help reducing your pre-event anxiety you can get in touch to book a one-to-one consultation by contacting Alan. 

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