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Psychology for Cycling Performance

Psychological Interventions for Improved Performance

The use of psychological techniques for performance enhancement has  grown out of a wider movement known as Positive Psychology,  which focuses on ways that psychology can help people improve and develop their capacities rather than simply aiming to eliminate negative symptoms.

CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy)is a set of well established clinical techniques that can  help overcome performance anxiety and manage the danger of negative thinking having an impact on performance.  CBT helps us to manage our thinking so that it works for us rather than against us in competition.

Similarly Mindfulness pays attention to our thinking in ways that help us not to be distracted by irrelevant information and enable us to concentrate fully on the task in hand.  Mindfulness helps the athlete to be focused and "in the zone" and also teaches ways of managing the pain and physical discomfort that occur during intense activity.  
EMDR (short for Eye Movement Desensitisation and reprocessing) was developed initially as a way to reduce symptoms of psychological trauma such as PTSD.  It is also successfully used for Performance enhancement and to reduce performance anxiety.  In a research study Dr Kate Gracheck, a cycling psychologist in the US, used the approach to improve the performance of an elite level cyclist.  The rider wished to improve his descending, a perceived area of weakness, and by using an adaptation of EMDR specific to athletic performance managed to substantially reduce his anxiety about descending.  One of the measures used to track improvement was the rider's time to descend a favourite hill.  Over the course of treatment his best time improved from 7 minutes 40 to 6 minutes 45- an improvement of 12%!