How sports psychology can improve your cycling/running


For this topic, we will focus on one element of sports psychology known as Visualisation or Imagery. This technique is used at the highest level of sports and can be easily applied to any type of sport.

What is imagery?

It is a mental process involving your already existing cycling/running experiences in the absence of actual running /riding… For example, you can see yourself riding up your local hill feeling the pedals turning and the muscles working in your legs, as you get further up the hill you can feel your breathing getting harder and your legs starting to hurt more.

Our mental processes are key to our activities and it’s proven that imagery can improve performance dramatically. Now, for people who are time crunched and who cannot always get out, this is perfect. You can practise this sat on a train or bus, at your desk , not for too long though! You can pick a moment where you have a few minutes and start practising this.

For some, working on visualisation comes easily but for others it can take a bit of practise. Don’t dive straight in and try to visualise yourself taking on the biggest climb or toughest section of a race, keep it simple and start with visualising putting your bike shoes or run shoes on… What this will do is set triggers in your mind off, as you start to feel the sensation of putting your cycling/running shoes on your subconscious mind will send messages thinking you are really going out on your bike. This means that you can progress your imagery to being on the bike. Try and put as much detail in as you can to get the most out of this technique.

Mental rehearsal is the name of the game, the more we go through a process in our mind, the easier and more natural it becomes when performed in the real situation.

Some tips for visualisation to help bring the experience to life;

  • How does it look
  • How does it feel
  • How does it smell
  • How do you feel
  • Pin point a specific part of your ride/run i.e. climbing
  • Break down the specific part into smaller parts i.e. pedal lift/knee lift
  • Break it down again i.e. your foot position as you lift

It is really important that when you visualise these cycling/running skills/techniques that you are doing them perfectly and that you always see yourself positively doing them, this will mean when you do them out on your bike, your mind will associate it with a good experience and help you to perform better.

If you have any questions on this method or any others, please or visit