Supercharge Your Cycling With These Mental Tricks

Crank up your performance with these simple attitude adjustments

Man using indoor spin bike
yellowdog/Cultura/Getty Images

When you participate in an indoor cycling class, your mind comes along for the ride, too. Even though there isn’t a competition, your thoughts and attitude can either help or hinder your performance in terms of what you get out of the ride and how much you enjoy it. Given the choice, why wouldn’t you do whatever you can to let your mind push your body to new personal bests?! You can do just that with the following tips and tricks:

Become self-absorbed. Focus exclusively on yourself, not what other people in the class are doing; this shouldn’t be a keeping-up-with-the-Jones experience (even though it can sometimes feel that way). Instead, pay attention to your own form, how you’re feeling, and other aspects of your experience. It’s your ride; get what you came for!

Give yourself a motivating mantra. Whether it’s “Go hard or go home!”, “I can do this!” or something else—having an inspiring workout mantra can motivate you to ride harder and stay strong when things get extra challenging. To be effective, a cycling mantra should be positive and powerful—and it should resonate with you.

Question your experience. During the workout, check in with yourself occasionally and ask yourself: What am I working towards? What do I want out of this ride? What could I do differently on this stretch that would bring out my best effort and performance?

Periodically reflecting on how you’re feeling and what you’re aiming for can help you get more powerful results from your indoor cycling sessions.

Remember an excellent ride from your past. Take a walk down memory lane and use a feel-good or winning exercise memory to enhance your motivation for your current cycling workout.

A 2014 study from the University of New Hampshire found that study participants who focused on and described a positive exercise experience from their pasts were more motivated to work out and more likely to stay with it in the future.

Find your own sweet spot. To get the most out of any ride, you’ll want to push yourself hard but not excessively to the point where you feel like you’re going to puke. The way to do that is to connect your mind with your body, to check in with yourself regularly to gauge how hard you’re working and whether it’s in sync with your goals. The sweet spot is different for every rider so it’s important to find yours.  

Give yourself pep talks during the workout. And when fatigue sets in, talk yourself through it. A 2014 study from the U.K. investigated the effects of positive self-talk on ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) and endurance performance in cyclists who rode to exhaustion at two different intensity levels: When the cyclists used motivational self-talk, their RPE was lower and their endurance performance was higher.

Similarly, researchers at the University of Northumbria in the U.K. found that using motivational self-talk improved the endurance performance and power output of cyclists during time trials without changing their RPE.

Imagine your best ride ever. Think about what your optimal ride would be like, how you’d feel, how your form would look, how much energy and power you’d have. Then, imagine that you have all those factors going in your favor right now and ride as if this is the best ride ever. Visualize yourself crossing the finish line ahead of the pack or reaching the top of a mountain trail on your bike, feeling strong and exhilarated. A 2013 study from the University of South Australia found that people emerged from their workouts in better moods when they used positive mental imagery during vigorous exercise. Seeing really can lead to believing!

Continue Reading