How to know when you need to chill the f@%k out with your training – Bike Magazine Australia

As we all know, bike-riding is really fun, and there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing the benefits of hard training in faster Strava times, longer rides, and better race results. We all know that you have to work hard to get results, and the messaging around cycling never fails to reinforce the idea that more suffering makes you stronger.

But just like a baking a cake, training is about finding the balance between undercooked and overdone. Cycling rewards dedicated and determined athletes, but the best – and happiest – athletes are those who dedicate themselves to balance rather than sacrificing everything for their training goals.

It can be hard to acknowledge that your training might be making you slower, sadder, and frankly not much fun to be around, so we caught up with Dr. Simon Marshall, author of The Brave Athlete: Calm the F**k Down and Rise to the Occasion, to tell you the tell-tale signs that you need to chill, sit down, and maybe enjoy a cupcake or two.

Immature Athletic Identity

Photograph by Getty

Dr. Marshall points out that what he calls an “immature athletic identity” can cause athletes to make decisions that lead to overtraining and an unbalanced set of priorities. For many athletes, this means putting training above other elements of a healthy and happy life (like family, hobbies, and social commitments); or training in a way which isn’t sustainable, such as riding too hard or too much.

Marshall sees a mature athletic identity as having seven elements; when these fall by the wayside, training can play a destructive role in an athlete’s life. A healthy athletic identity is when:

  1. You currently participate in sports or exercise.
  2. You are comfortable calling yourself an athlete.
  3. You are comfortable being called an athlete by others.
  4. You “own” your athletic ability. You’re neither embarrassed by it, nor do you feel the need to prove your ability to others.
  5. You don’t engage in excessive self-criticism or self-aggrandisement (e.g., telling people how awesome you are) when talking about your riding skills.
  6. You maintain a healthy balance between your sport and other interests. Your performance on the bike is not the sole contributor to your self-worth. You have friends who are not athletes, and you frequently talk about non-sport-related topics in social situations.
  7. You have emotional reactions that most people would consider reasonable when things go south (e.g., losing, failing, getting penalized, getting injured, etc.).

If you find yourself freaking out when your knee hurts, or telling someone you’ve just met about your 40ktt time, it might be a sign that it’s time to back it off a little. Take a few days off the bike and think about what cycling really means to you and why you train. Riding bikes should be fun, and no amount of training should cause you to lose sight of that. 

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