After a couple epic fails during XC mountain bike races I thought I might need a little psychological boost so I picked up Carrie Cheadle's book, On Top of Your Game. I heard about the book during an interview she gave to Mountain Bike Radio. In the book, the author addresses common mistakes that athletes of any sport can relate to but I found them to have relevance for bike racing. The premise is that while we all prepare physically for our sports, we tend to forget about the psychological aspect until something goes wrong. Her book contains a series of mental exercises that can alleviate such problems, mostly by fixing our focus in the right direction.
Luckily I'm long past the anxiety shakes that hindered my first few races so there were chunks of this book that didn't apply to me. However, there were some gems that hit my issues right on the money. One was my tendency to create "Secret Goals." The author defined that habit as the hidden agenda that we carry into a competition. Reading this section cracked open one of my big problems. With an overactive imagination that focuses too much on outcome and not enough on "Playing" I was setting myself up with unrealistic expectations and thus constantly falling short. Another great notion was the acknowledgement that competition has a natural "Yin/Yang" quality that many of us forget during the good times and remember harshly during the slumps. Carrie writes that if we accept the inevitability of that emotional roller coaster it becomes easier to flow with it.
I read this book end to end and it took a while because I'd read, pause, think and do the mental exercises for each concept. However, most people would probably find it more useful to pick a chapter that jumps out at you. None of us have all of these problems but all of us have likely had some of them. If I have any criticism it would be that while the concepts can be applied across the spectrum of sports, I wish there had been more about bike racing. The shortage of specific examples forces the reader to imagine how it applies to their situation rather than reading about another person facing their exact same difficulty. It is a practical read that focused my mind for another season on the bike, encouraging me to have fun and set more realistic goals.
This book is available on Amazon.com: