Mental Periodization

By Dr. Michelle Cleere

Having been a coach and an athlete for many years, the notion of periodization is not only familiar but incredibly important. Periodization should be one component included in any good systematic training approach for sports.

It’s about understanding how to train for competition where at the height of training you’ve done as much as you can do. You can’t do any more and it’s time to back off training for a short period of time to not feel over trained and give your mind and body a brief moment of rest leading up to the big day.

What is periodization?

It’s common practice for cyclists to slow down physically as a race draws near but it’s far less common to go through mental periodization prior to a race. It is equally important to physically decrease training and mentally take a break as well. But what usually happens is you tend to have a lot of fear around physical periodization (Will I be ready? Have I trained enough?) and your brain actually ramps up more.

This is not the time for your brain to ramp up and be gripped by fear. Instead it’s important to understand your physical periodization (what, why and how) and then complement it with mental periodization. Mental periodization means learning to let go of the elements that create more angst than good. These are different for everyone, but you might recognize them as overthinking, planning, reviewing splits or times, watching video of opponents, worries, doubts, and/or fears at least a week prior to competition.

If you’ve already developed the proper mental skills, this won’t be as difficult as not having developed a mental game plan. Why? Because if you’ve already worked on this stuff, you have a sense of how to deal with the mental and emotional things that pop up.

How to think about mental periodization

One week before your race, nothing is going to change and you are as prepared as you’re going to be. Even if you aren’t as prepared as you want to be, one week is not going to make up for lost time.

Take the necessary steps for mental periodization:

  1. Develop your mental skills – learn how to deal with overthinking, planning, stats, watching video of opponents, worries, doubts and fears.
  2. Accept where you are – whatever training you’ve done is where you are physically.
  3. Respect the process – your mind and body need a break in order to compete optimally. Allow the break and know it will only make you stronger for your race.
  4. Trust your coach – coaches have a different way of transitioning their cyclists from training to being ready for the race. Trust your coach and the experience they have to prepare you.

Practice physical and mental periodization

If you want to be a great cyclists, it takes mental and physical work – skill development and deliberate practice and acceptance for where you are. Deliberate practice is an important concept for you to understand and is a critical skill to reach your goals. It is a systematic approach to training and includes mental and physical periodization. Part of that system is knowing you have done all you can do up to now and for this race.

Know how to rest and prep your mind and body for the big race!!

Contact Dr. Michelle with any questions.

Dr. Michelle

Elite Performance Expert

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