Kaizen & The Anchor: staying focused through a season

this article originally appeared on the GENCO Mongolia Bike Challenge website.

 

We all know that feeling, I’m sure, of beating ourselves up a little because of lost days of riding due to a loss of motivation, of life getting in the way of our first true love, or just a general disinterest in the goings on of the universe because every once in a while the entropy that defines this world seeps in to your soul and just makes you go ‘blah’.

Thing is, we really shouldn’t be berating ourselves when we experience these kind of dips, as they are perfectly natural and, if harnessed correctly, can prove to be great sources of motivation in themselves. There are few better feelings on the bike than getting over one of these ‘humps’ and coming back raging and ready to crush it on the trails, after all.

There are though a couple of ‘philosophies’ that can help a cyclist to minimize these dips, to stay focused and to crank on.

One is from Japan, known as ‘Kaizen’, which very simply means ‘good change’, the other is the idea of The Anchor, an idea that came to me that I personally use to keep on the straight and narrow.

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It might sound a little daft, saying that cyclists need an ‘anchor,’ as surely this would slow you down. But I’m not talking about a literal lump of metal that is designed to keep you held fast in one place, but a mental ‘trick’ that can help you stay focused, motivated and keep your training on track.

In essence, the idea is to ask yourself, whenever you are doing anything, either off-bike or on, this question:

‘Is what I’m doing now going to help me in the race?’

If the answer is an honest ‘yes’ then great, carry on and be glorious. If not, then perhaps an adjustment has to be made to turn that answer around.

Of course, this question may pop into your head when you’re sat eating a Double Whopper and large fries with a chocolate milkshake in hand, and that may not be the greatest thing to happen!

We all need to cheat from time to time though, to feel like the rest of the human population (ie not like a bike obsessed geek whose idea of fun is 7 hours riding over frozen tundra), but ‘The Anchor’ can serve to pull us back into the place we actually want to be when behavior like this, or skipping training, or riding too easily and not challenging ourselves might be occurring too often.

The GENCO Mongolia Bike Challenge was thus named because a) it is in Mongolia, b) there are bicycles involved and c) it is one heck of a bloody challenge, make no mistake about that.

When creating the race a few years ago, Willy Mulonia wanted to create an event where the participants emerged from it having gained something tangible. Not just harder legs and a few kilograms lighter, but a feeling that they were more resolute, more focused and feeling proud of themselves that they’d got through it all.

Something, indeed, that they could carry into other areas of their life. And isn’t that a beautiful thing?

It’s not just the challenge of the event itself but also the challenge to prepare well for it that makes it all so rewarding. So, if you find your attention wandering, try The Anchor.

Or, try Kaizen. I first heard about Kaizen when the English rugby player, Johnny Wilkinson, said that he walks around imagining that a video camera is watching his every move.

Johnny Wilkinson

Johnny Wilkinson

Sounds kinda… creepy right? I agree, but on further investigation I learnt that the basic tenet of Kaizen is of striving to make continuous improvements, whether it be in business, government or, as in Wlikinson’s case, an individual’s personal life.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all ‘How To’ on you, and I personally run a mile from self-improvement books and gurus and the like, but there is nothing wrong in adapting ideas if they can make you faster and stronger on the bike.

Kaizen may just be the name for the process but besides that, the idea of stepping back and analyzing your riding, training, diet and rest, looking back to the previous week’s training to discover why you were flying on a certain day or flagging on another and generally seeking to make continuous improvements, is no bad thing.

I always encourage my clients to analyse themselves why we are doing a certain kind of training and to see the reasons behind the suffering! Then, perhaps the next time they ride at 95% of their capacity for 30 minutes up a 10km hill, they may curse me a little less than usual…

There’s another flipside of this process of analysis and anchoring: it actually makes the riding and training more enjoyable as you are constantly learning and discovering new things, and that, when the winds are a-blowing and the sky is the color of concrete, can kick your backside to get off the sofa and out into the wilds.

As ever folks, crank on…!

Wilkinson wins the 2003 Rugby World Cup

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