5 Ways to Pedal Your Way Through Performance Anxiety

Time trialling is often an experience that can create performance anxiety.
Performance anxiety: I’ll be delving into this topic, a topic that’s close to my heart. I’ve written about this topic before (links to previous posts can be found at the end). 

As a psychologist who’s no stranger to the open road, I’ve had my fair share of encounters with this all-too-common foe. I’m going to offer a perspective on how we can manage performance anxiety, both on and off the bike, with a blend of understanding, support, and a dash of pedal power.

Performance anxiety is that gnawing sense of apprehension that creeps up when we’re faced with a challenge or task that demands our best. Whether it’s gearing up for a big race or stepping onto the stage for a presentation, the fear of failing can impact even the most seasoned performers.

But it’s useful to be aware that performance anxiety is most definitely not a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s a perfectly natural response to the pressure we place on ourselves to succeed. As cyclists, we know all too well the exhilarating highs and crushing lows that come with pushing our limits. And while a healthy dose of nerves can fuel our performance, too much can leave us spinning our wheels.

It is not unexpected to experience a level of performance anxiety during time trialing.

So, how do we harness the anxiety that presents when we need to perform to unleash our potential? So, here are a few insights I’ve learned while on the saddle and in the therapist’s chair:

  1. Embrace the butterflies: It’s helpful to reframe our mindset around performance anxiety. Rather than viewing it as a hindrance, let’s see it as a sign that we care deeply about our performance. Those butterflies doing flips in our stomach? They’re evidence of the passion and dedication you have.
  2. Practice mindfulness: Just like we can tune into the rhythm of our pedals on the road, the wind or the effort we might be exerting, we can tune into the present moment when faced with anxiety in the lead up to a performance, and even on the start line. Mindfulness techniques, such as slow breathing and grounding exercises, can help us centre ourselves and quiet the noise of self-doubt.
  3. Set realistic goals: As cyclists, we know the importance of setting SMART goals when it comes to training for events—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. It’s possible to apply this same principle to managing performance anxiety. Break down daunting tasks into smaller, more manageable steps, and celebrate each milestone along the way.
  4. Seek support: Remember, we don’t have to navigate the twists and turns of performance anxiety alone. Whether it’s leaning on fellow cyclists or a coach for encouragement or seeking guidance from your coach or a trusted therapist, reaching out for support can make all the difference in our journey toward mental resilience and harnessing those butterflies.
  5. Embrace failure as growth: Finally, let’s reframe our relationship with failure. It’s not that helpful to view setbacks as a sign of inadequacy. It can be more helpful to see the setback as opportunities for growth and learning. After all, it’s through adversity and challenges that we learn and grow to emerge stronger, wiser, and more resilient than before.

As we pedal forward on our journey toward mental wellness and peak performance, let’s remember that can do this together. Whether we’re conquering steep climbs or navigating the twists and turns of life, let’s lean into the power of community, compassion, and camaraderie. Together, we can pedal through performance anxiety and emerge victorious on the other side.

So, with that, I wish your rides have a tailwind, the roads are smooth and your mind is present and calm.

If you would like to explore more about performance anxiety with me you can contact me via email or phone: he***@en*********.au or 041265234. Or you can can make an appointment by clicking here: Book an Appointment

Read more about anxiety here:

What is anxiety?

3 Ways To Manage Anxiety With Your Breath

Read more about performance and anxiety as applied to bike racing here:

The Psychology of Bike Racing – Part 1 of 3 articles

The Psychology of Bike Racing – Part 2

The Psychology of Bike Racing – Part 3 MINDSET


Scroll to Top