Mental Preparation – Utilise Pre-event nerves

In the first of this series, Alan Heary explained the importance of mental preparation for your cycling and the practical ways you can achieve the right mindset through goal setting.

In this instalment, Alan details practical ways a rider can utilise pre-event nerves…


How can a cyclist tackle or utilise pre-event nerves?

Pre-event nerves can be a vital part of any preparation. Adrenaline and endorphins begin to kick in and it can be a great way to feel ready for your event. However if these pre-event nerves aren’t kept in check they can creep up to become more of a hindrance than a help.

Imagine an arousal scale between 0 to 10 where 0 is sleep and 10 is blind panic. As you prepare for your event your arousal level rises. At about 6 on the scale you find yourself focused, motivated and physically ready. This could be considered the zone state. Any less than 6 and you don’t put in the effort required to perform at your best while anything above 6 and you begin to lose focus and your mind is jumping all over the place as you begin to feel less in control and more anxious.

So the question becomes, how can I get to 6 and stay there?


Here is what you need to do if you feel you’re slipping too high up the scale:


Next time, Alan will share his advice on how to recover from a cycling setback.

Fundamentals – Cornering

Whether you’re a seasoned rider or just coming to the bike, good technique makes bike events so much safer and less stressful.

In this Cycling Fundamentals post, we focus on getting through the bends….


Heading into the cycling season after the winter training, it can sometimes be a shock to the system when you find yourself in a big group of riders.

Different colours, sounds, unfamiliar roads. It can all be a bit of an assault to the senses and it’s at times like this that proper technique will really pay dividends.

Being comfortable riding your bike through the corners will help make you relax, expend less energy and enjoy the experience. You’ll also be better placed to make adjustments to take account of other riders’ movements in the group.

In any sport or pastime from golf to guitar playing, work on the fundamentals will pay off in the long run and cycling is no exception.

Watch The Terrain

Look for and avoid gravel or lose chippings that could cause you to slip. After you know what the riding conditions are in a particular corner, you can slowly increase your speed each time.


If it’s a fast and challenging corner, make sure your weight is distributed properly and you have full control of the bike by putting your hands on the handlebar drops so you can apply the right amount of force on the brake lever.

Brake early

Do all your braking before the turn. Three-time world motor racing champion Jackie Stewart says that the key to good cornering is in the braking and the principal applies to bike riding, too.
As you brake most of the weight is focused on the front of the bike so it makes sense you’ll apply more force on the front brake lever but the back brake is key, too, so don’t neglect it.
Release the brakes and start the turn by leaning the bike.

Lift the foot

As you lean into the corner lift the inside foot so that it doesn’t strike the ground on the turn

Look where you’re going

Look in the direction you want to go. Your bike will follow where your eyes are looking so look at the exit of the corner

Make Your Exit

As you come out of the turn, gradually straighten the bike until it’s upright, then start to pedal again.

Mind the wet

Painted lines, manhole covers and oily pavement become slippery in wet conditions. Wet roads exaggerate everything you do: Braking while the bike is leaning will cause you to skid more easily, and sudden turning can make your wheels slip. So slow down.


The key is that all movements should be smooth and natural. And make sure you are within your personal ‘envelope’. Don’t push too hard, too soon.

The right technique will become second nature in time but don’t rush it.


Mental Preparation – Goal Setting


Mental Strength coach, Alan Heary details the importance of mental preparation for your cycling and the practical ways you can achieve the right mindset.

Why is mental preparation just as important as physical?

What we think has a direct effect on our physical sensations. In fact research has shown that the nervous system cannot tell the difference between a vividly imagined experience and reality.

Think about it this way. Let’s say you wake up in the middle of the night and you hear something outside. You think it might be someone breaking into your car or worse, your house. Your body starts to react – your heart rate increases, muscles become tense and you reach for the baseball bat. You are in the fight or flight mode. It makes no difference that it might just be a cat on a bin, if in your mind you think about it as the worst possible outcome your body reacts as if it’s really happening.

Now let’s take it that into a scenario where you have a cyclist who is travelling to a race or sportive and they keep thinking about the route and are concerned about all the climbs and how they might get dropped from the group or crash. As a result they forget to focus on what is important like hydration or food intake and this has a direct impact on their physical performance.

You will not perform to your best if you turn up to a race in great physical condition but your motivation is low and you can’t put in the effort required to do well or you lack focus and miss a break away or there is a sprint finish and you don’t have the confidence to go for it. You need to be physically ready for competition but it’s not enough without that commitment, confidence, control and concentration you need to succeed.


How should a cyclist go about setting goals? (both long and short term).

Goal setting is hugely important for performance. Most people just think about their goals at the start of the year or write them down and then put them to one side never to look at them again but that’s not good planning and a goal without a plan is just an idea!


Here is my five-step plan to setting goals.


Why is this an important process in training?

Training sessions are mini steps towards your ultimate goals and in order to get the most out of your time you need to have a sense of purpose.

The first step is to ask yourself before you go out – what do I want to achieve today? Are you going to work on climbing, speed or is it a recovery spin. Before you go out write a short list of performance goals you want to achieve. These can include:

After your ride you can tick off the goals you achieved and decide what your next session’s goals are going to be. This keeps you on target for your longer-term goals.




Wicklow 200 Ireland's Premier Cycling Challenge