Jacques Anquetil, legendary French cyclist of the 1950s and 1960s, powering his way to victory. Famously, at the bottom of climbs, Anquetil would take his water bottle off his bike and tuck it into the back of his cycling jersey. It didn't, of course, mean that he had to carry any less up the mountain, but he knew that it was important to tell himself that he was 'lightening' his bike so that it was easier to climb.
To ensure optimum performance in sport, athletes use their minds as well as their bodies. Thinking about how you think is a key part of winning. Might some of this work with students in the classroom as well?
Compare the table below of two mental patterns. What if, in the following, we replaced 'cyclist' with 'history student' and 'race' with 'essay'? Haven't we all encountered students with negative attitudes, or, more common, with no training in how to think positively about their educational experience.
I can't claim that I've ever been fully able to make the transition from Adrian Plodder to Joe Trier, but being aware of the difference and how to try to break the relevant thought patterns has mattered to me. Or is this all a bit CBT and happy clappy?
Adrian Trier Joe Plodder
Wants to race Passive and nervous, not sure
Strongly motivated Tired, feels sluggish
Can concentrate totally Indecisive
Happy with himself Insecure, not happy with himself
Feels ‘flowing’, at one with bike Feels heavy and slow
Happy, good mood Feels low and down
No inner conflicts I’ve got this problem…
Self-confident Worried… doesn’t dare try
No anxieties about performance Scared
Aims high/goes for it Anxious, defensive, evasive
So what? If I don’t… I’m scared to try, in case…
Thinks/talks positive to self Thinks/talks negative to self
No 13 in positive thinking I’m achieving nothing, everything’s wrong.
Positive Mental Attitude Checklist
- Set your dream goal
- Set specific goals
- Plan specifically how you will achieve those goals
- Imagine success: if you can’t imagine, you can’t do it
- Always act as if you will achieve success
- Prepare and train mentally
- Train to race well, don’t train to train
- Focus on your strengths
- Work on your weaknesses
- Assess your progress. Then re-assess, then re-assess again.
- Learn from every race, every training session.
- Don’t be afraid to refine and change your aims, objectives and goals
- Be persistent: try, try and try again.
- Liking yourself is the most important starting point
- Enjoy your good luck at being a cyclist
- Always remember that there is life outside cycling.
(Adapted from Steve Trew, Triathlon: A Training Manual (ramsbury, Crowood, 2001), 182.)