Reach for the stars: assessing and reducing your own self-imposed limits
Sometimes an athlete will come to me with a firm belief about what they are and what their strengths are. After all, it’s nice to be good at something and most of the time when you find that thing, you know that it’s a strength because using it rewards you with good results. Examples are having good short power, mocking savvy tactical moves, or flourishing with higher gradients.
But what if I told you it was all a lie?
I mean...that's a bit of hyperbole, power metres have made it increasingly easy to validate what we feel we are good at. You can’t argue with an elite female pushing close to 5w/kg threshold going well uphill, but what if I argued that this rider with a great w/kg could be something more than a pure climber or time-triallist?
We don’t like to admit our biases and indeed, I have had multiple occasions in my life where I have been discounted as a heavier rider (because racing at 60-62kg is ‘overweight’ according to the visual acuity of many!) and managed great results on climbing courses. Actually, I kind of thrive on being underestimated. There are times when I have had terrible climbing legs at lower, and higher weights, the difference being when you’re lighter you put it down to a bad day and when you’re heavier you tend to blame the weight. And thats not to say it isn’t a factor: physics is physics, after all.
Pushing the limits of what we envision ourselves as being good at is key to breaking through in as a better, more well rounded athlete. That being said if you’re a complete sprinter type looking to do well in an alpine tour, it’s probably not wise to expect to dominate off the back of a single season training for a hillier race. But bringing the key learnings and adaptations from this training back onto other hilly or undulating courses in the future can allow a great chance at making the selection and potentially lining you up for a faster finish at the end whee you have a chance to use that existing sprint.
I have seen people’s ‘careers’ on the bike dominated by their beliefs about themselves and their strengths, and instead of than treating themselves as an athletic vessel for mental and physical growth, pigeonholing themselves into a type that can lead to distress and anguish if things don’t happen as they’re supposed to. After all it’s easier to go back to that comfort zone of what you know, and what you believe to be true rather than trying something new and ‘failing’!
The key takeaway here is not to limit yourself, and while I am not going to be signing up for a 24hour race anytime soon, things that are not your forte can be approached as valuable building blocks in your athletic and broader life.
So, what sort of beliefs do you hold about yourself? Does the data back it up? Are there any ways that this is potentially untrue? How can you challenge yourself in light of this?
CX weapon Jaye crushing it on the MTB pic: B.RAD Wheels