Be Smart, Be Strong, Be Brave
The latest blog from supported athlete, Rebecca Richardson.
Beeley HC 2019 - Photograph by Anthony Wood @tonywoodphotography (and friend of Jocko Willink)
Every night I read a chapter of a book to my son, Arthur. The book is called “The Way of the Warrior Kid” by Jocko Willink. Arthur is hooked, and so am I. Together we are learning some useful tools towards getting stronger, smarter and braver.
In the book the one of the main characters “Mark” asks the question “what if you don’t have a passion?”
I didn’t necessarily have a passion for cycling and racing at the beginning. I just had the bug for adventure. Initially I just biked places. Then, I grew into racing by first of all trying; secondly learning; and, thirdly committing.
My passion grew out of all of this, and the doors of possibilities were open. I learnt that through discipline I can set exciting goals.
Cycling makes me feel free because I am deciding my own path and owning my own life when I am on my bike. In my training and in my performance, I want to go faster, be smarter and be braver. My goal is to win the race.
DISCIPLE = FREEDOM
I like this equation, which is taken from the book. A big concept to be teaching a kid, but, actually, a big concept from most adults I dare say! We are often taught the idea of discipline at school, in the authoritarian style, so no wonder that as adults we morph into a “disciplined” workforce, not wishing to upset the authority. Discipline is seen as a negative word, because it has been taught in Western education as a tool for obedience. However; in eastern traditions there is a stronger affinity with the term “self-discipline” which can lead to enlightenment and contentment and is seen as a positive attribute.
SELF DISCIPLINE = FREEDOM
I think that this is a more accurate equation to describe focus and commitment towards your goals. To move away from negative connotations, and think positively about challenges ahead. Examples of self-discipline would be: getting up early; setting a daily routine; eating good foods; getting plenty of sleep; and working out. I have learnt to prioritise my life into time periods to meet my goals. I have also learnt that you have to own what you do. Nobody else is going to make it happen for you.
However, there is always a balance to be struck, and I allow for flexibility in my plans. For example, it is only some parts of the year that I am truly strict to diet, yet overall I eat healthy real foods.
Monsal 2019 - Giving it 100% - Photograph by Anthony Wood @tonywoodphotography
I am still learning about how to become a better athlete. One very important aspect that is overlooked is feeling good about life and enjoying what you do. Stress is linked directly to my performance on the bike. With concerns about COVID-19 and how it is impacting the lives of everyone around me, this has been even more prevalent.
Focusing on the mental aspect of my performance – and wellbeing, is something that my coach Liam and I, have put a real emphasis on. We’ve put in place some protocols to better cope with mental stress, which I feel has really helped my performance. Not only am I in a better place generally in life, but feel I am better equipped to deal with pre competition anxiety.
Winning monsal 2019 - A bit of disbelief!
When I rode out to the Horseshoe Pass several weeks ago, I knew I was physically ready to go for a personal best time on Strava and beat the virtual records. This is something I wrote about in my previous blog here. Going for a bike ride and having a focus, a goal, is an important part of my mental health. It makes me feel better, somehow, going fast up a hill - and yet recording it felt insensitive to the current circumstances.
Albeit I gave the Horseshoe Pass a go, it is a short ride from my home. I rode with all my normal kit on and my road bike, with a bottle on the front. I left my spare bottle at the bottom. It was a sunny day, with a light tailwind. The road was quiet. I set off quite well, but knew I was a bit distracted, not giving it 100%. It didn’t feel ‘right’. However, if I wasn’t mentally ‘there’, physically I was in fantastic form thanks to Liam, and luckily my legs did the talking.
I took over 2 minutes off the Strava QOM and managed a 16:13, which puts me top 30 overall on Strava. I bettered my power on similar hill climbs during the 2019 season. So, I capped off a goal. Self-discipline played a part in the day. I have learnt strategies about how to manage negative thought processes. In the past I would have been debilitated by the anxieties, but instead I managed them enough to let my legs do the talking.
I am now going to be taking it easy on the bike, and enjoying some nice rides, and then in a few weeks Liam and I begin a programme of training towards the National Hill Climb. What I have learnt in the lockdown is that social media can really impact an athletes mental health and therefore their performance. It is a distraction away from focus and could waiver an athletes commitment. I know that I can be the best athlete if I “lockdown” and enjoy homelife, growing vegetables and playing with my son. These influences will create forces for good in my brain, because when I feel good, I perform better.
Wish me luck on my journey to Nationals. I am 100% committed, and in October let us hope that the National Hill Climb goes ahead.
Note: If you are interested to know more about what it takes to hill climb you can listen to this podcast by Brother Cycling UK, just released in April 2020. We talk about everything Hill Climb related.