Psych: Achieving optimal mental focus during performance

As a coach I the first thing I tell new clients is that I need to work on getting things squared away from the neck up before I can worry about the rest of the body. Over the years I have observed that the few riders who display certain traits when it comes to training tend to do much better than everyone else, however those traits are not genetic and can be learned. Once I show someone how to focus properly and unleash the power of their minds their training really takes off.

This means that I am always looking for ways to improve my understanding of the psychological side of training and that led my to download a copy of the book Psych by Dr. Judd Biasiotto. Dr. Biasiotto is a former high level power lifter who was, as he put it, “the worst power lifter in the world” when he started. After 2 years of coming no where near the top of any meet he learned how to focus his mind in a way that allowed him to become one of the top lifter in the world.

Psych is filled with insights and lessons from someone who has had a lot of unique personal and professional experiences and had a lot of great takeaways. Below you will find a podcast review of those takeaways and how they relate to mental training for mountain biking. You’ll also find the notes from the podcast posted below as well.

Download this episode (right click and save)

– Judd began the book recounting his experience with The Academy, which was an organization founded by the Kansas City Royals owner. If he mentions exactly when this was I couldn’t find it but it had to be some time in the late 60’s/ early 70’s. It’s main goal was to figure out how to turn regular athletes into baseball players but it also looked into a lot of other interesting things, including “the black athlete”.

– While researching to see if black athletes had genetic gifts that allowed them to excel at sports the researchers found that it wasn’t genetics but one major factor: time spent practicing/ playing their sport (10,000 hours).

– Other factors included knowledge of their sport, mental confidence and attitude.

– The mind is very sensitive to inputs and you need to keep filling it with positive thoughts and experiences.

– The brain can not tell the difference between real and imagined events, which makes visualization a powerful tool.

– Visualization can be powerful but only in the right hands. Bad visualization practice can be more harmful than good visualization practice is helpful.

– Stress before competition can be either cognitive or physical.

– Cognitive Stress is the mental stress like worry and self doubt. It tends to raise leading up to a competition and then lower once things have started. The more experienced and athlete is the sooner Cognitive Stress starts to drop.

– Physical Stress like increased HR and muscle tension can improve performance up to a certain point and then it becomes negative.

– Trait vs. State Anxiety: Trait is your overall disposition and State is how you are reacting to a particular stress.

– Learn to relax through Deep Muscle Relaxation, Biofeedback or Meditation and then systematically visualize stressful scenarios from competition while maintaining relaxed state to train your mind to associate stressful situations with relaxation instead of stress.

– Psyching up is individual to the person and event and consists of “chaining” a series of steps together to create a ritual used to mentally prepare for optimum performance.

– Introduce elements of competition into your training like crowd noise, pre-event rituals/ prep and time of day/ schedule.

– Concentration and Focus are the key elements to optimum performance. Being totally absorbed and in the Flow State is the goal.

– Four Types of Focus: Internal/ Broad – Internal/ Narrow – External/ Broad – External/ Narrow

– To avoid choking focus on the Process, not the Outcome.

-James Wilson-

Social Comments:

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  1. Thomas says:

    very good pederast episode. sparks some thoughts

    Reply • January 21 at 3:07 pm
  2. Thomas says:

    damn autocorrection: very good podcast episode. sparks some thoughts

    Reply • January 21 at 3:08 pm
  3. Jeff says:

    So when are you doing your top five biomechanical movements video to help us ensure proper visualization?

    -seated pedaling
    -standing pedaling

    That should just about cover it for me (xc type).

    Thanks for the review and info, good stuff as always.

    Reply • January 22 at 7:55 pm
  4. Gayle says:

    The time crunched trail rider program would help me ALOT!
    I am a 48 yr old Mom, & wife. I have been trying to improve my riding since finishing the LT100 in 2010, in 12:37. I have signed up again & need to break the 12: hr mark to ‘buckle”. I believe this program will help me
    Attain my goal!

    Reply • February 3 at 1:25 pm

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James Wilson
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Mountain Bike Coach
James Wilson