Confidence in athletic performance is something that's been on my mind for years. As a kid, I was always a reader - not so much an athlete - and hated PE in school. When I started cycling in my 30s, I was seriously intimidated by the other people flying down the road on their bikes (not to mention the hills!)
As I got better, I got more confident. Or was it that as I got more confident I got better?
Confidence can actually be one of the main factors that plays into our performance. We all know the benefits of self-confidence, and in fact studies have shown that that being confident in your own abilities can generate other positive emotions, including pride in yourself, which boosts your overall performance. It also improves your concentration and effort – an athlete is more likely to stay on task and do their best if they believe that they have the ability to succeed in their goal.
It's also not surprising that an athlete with low self-confidence may lose concentration and become easily distracted by people around them or by other competitors. In this way, they are likely to crumble.
I have CERTAINLY experienced this when, for example, I run into a steep hill, think "There's NO WAY I'm going to be able to get up that" and almost immediately go off the side of the road.
Okay, so how can I increase my own self-confidence out there?
While some of us naturally have an abundance of self-confidence, most of us do not! And so, we have to work to maintain and improve our self-confidence. A couple of techniques that can help are:
Self-talk: You can use positive ‘self-talk’ – an internal commentary of positive reinforcement. Sort of like a mantra, only instead of repeating the same positive phrase over and over, have several positive statements you tell yourself throughout the day. "Slow and steady" is a good phrase to keep in mind as you granny-gear yourself up a steep hill.
Imagery: This is not a method I use, but many people find it helpful. It involves picturing yourself executing the perfect performance. Try to implant this image into your subconscious and recall it when you are actually performing, ie, at the top of the hill or at the end of the course.
Support: It also helps to have a support system of people who are close to you, as a positive influence. Close friends, family members, mentors, coaches, etc. are all there to help you believe in yourself. This can be a real sanity-saver when things go sideways and you get down on yourself.
And honestly, for a lot of people, wearing something you feel comfortable in and know you look great is a natural confidence booster. The old adage, “to look good is to feel good” does have some truth to it! Even if you are struggling, the right gear helps you affirm to yourself that you BELONG out there. You smile more and people pick up on your confident vibe. This is one reason why I think the work we do at Tonik is so important.
And obvi, don't dwell on things that didn't go as you planned! Get what you can learn from those experiences and move on. Enjoy the process and the endorphins, and the fact that you can get out again tomorrow.