Long-distance Racing? 4 Tips to Boost Your Mental Strength!
Reading time: 3 min

Long-distance Racing? 4 Tips to Boost Your Mental Strength!

Reading time: 3 min
Tips for long-distance racing from a mental coach.
Long-distance Racing? 4 Tips to Boost Your Mental Strength!

"I can't go on!"

"Come on, keep going! Bit by bit and at your own pace, you'll get there."

Perhaps you know these inner conflicts during long-distance racing?

As a former professional mountain biker, I know these situations well. Whether long distance or stage race.

What tips could I give myself as a mental coach to help me deal with difficult phases and mental low points, stay motivated, and remain mentally strong? After all, long distances in particular are mentally challenging.

Kerstin Kögler — former professional mountain biker, mental coach, and author of this blog. Photo: Paula Schäfer

1 Good preparation

Sometimes not everything goes according to plan, neither for you nor for others. But your attitude determines how much you let it affect you.

A long-distance race often holds surprises in store. Even minor events can bring you down mentally and demotivate you. You often can't change the situation, for instance change the weather.

However, you can prepare yourself well for events in advance and focus on the solution.

Mentally prepare yourself for possible scenarios. Think about what could happen and formulate solutions in advance.

Examples:

  • Heat, rain, cold: Check the weather forecast the day before and on race day and adapt your gear to the weather.
  • Equipment: Check your bike thoroughly in advance, build up your technical know-how, have spare parts and tools with you for the most common technical defects, e.g. punctures. Find out where the tech zones are in the race and which brands/products they carry.
  • Nutrition: Adequate nutrition (energy gels, energy bars, electrolytes, etc.) helps you to perform well and also affects your mental state. If I don't eat enough carbohydrates during the race, not only will my performance drop, but also my mood and mental strength. In a stage race, it is also important to fuel up after the stage in order to be in good shape for the start the next day, e.g. with recovery drinks.
  • Low energy: Make a meal plan in advance with sufficient carbohydrates, electrolytes, etc., and stick to it. Go at your own pace and walk uphill if necessary, talk to yourself positively and build yourself up.

2 Give yourself positive support

Am I good enough? Will the long descent be successful? Perhaps you are familiar with such self-talk? Is your inner dialogue blocking you?

Negative self-talk leads to stress, tension and usually poor performance. Positive self-talk, on the other hand, strengthens you and can support you effectively.

Observe yourself during the competition or even before and after. Which words can build you up, relax or energize you best?

Make a note of these positive words or phrases and say them to yourself again and again during the competition.

Important: The sentences should of course be realistic and believable for you.

Examples:

  • I'm not good enough. 🡪 I trust myself, I'm doing my best.
  • The next climb is so long 🡪 I've already done so much and now I'm going to master the climb bit by bit!
  • I'm going to crash. 🡪 I have good riding technique and ride downhill safely and under control. 
"I have a good riding technique and ride downhill safely and under control." Photo: Thomas Kappel

3 Celebrate intermediate success

Set intermediate goals!

In long-distance racing, it can be helpful to break up the route and set intermediate goals for individual sections of the route.

The advantage: you can celebrate small intermediate successes along the way. This increases your motivation.

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4 Keep an eye on your strengths and successes

We often focus on our deficits and weaknesses, which tends to demotivate you.

Instead, concentrate on your strengths and take off the "deficit-orientated glasses". When you are aware of your strengths, you gain self-confidence. They support you in what you do.

Write down your strengths. Strengths can be, for example, abilities, skills, characteristics, etc.

Examples:

  • I have excellent basic stamina.
  • I have good riding technique, which helps me in difficult passages.
  • I have good body awareness and can easily assess myself during the race.
  • I have found the optimal sports nutrition for me and can rely on my proven nutrition plan during the race.

Your strength can also be your endurance. Keep climbing!
Photo: Thomas Kappel

Conclusion

To conclude, I would like to leave you with two empowering questions. Take a few minutes to write down your answers:

  1. What have you already achieved on the MTB (and in a race) without believing you could do it? How did you do it? Which skills/actions helped you?
  2. Which skills/qualities/strengths characterize you as an athlete?

Have a successful next long-distance race!