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Part Four: Some Books for the Holidays

This is part four in a series. These books have all had a positive influence on my own training, health, or mental well-being, and I highly recommend them. The books are in no order. For full disclosure’s sake, know that if you click on the linked image to purchase the book, it will give me a small kick back. I am going to do books every Monday between now and Christmas, so stay tuned. I am sorry I only did one book this week, but it was super busy!

The Brave Athlete: Calm the F*ck Down and Rise to the Occasion

by Simon Marshall PhD and Lesley Paterson

I bought this book because I was concerned last year that my weakness during the race was due to a lack of mental toughness. I cracked, and I cracked easily when repeated efforts started to happen on the road, and I gave up when the group split on the first lap in a cyclocross race. On the mountain bike, I moved over to flat pedals after a fear of falling off gripped me harder than a python on a rabbit. I saw an ad for this book in VeloNews, and I immediately thought I would give it a shot. I’m glad I did.

The book, written by Marshall (a psychologist) and Paterson (a triathlete) deals with 13 different conundrums that athletes have come to them with, and they provide guidance on how we should evaluate and then face each. It explains some basic psychology and the reasons why we feel and do the things we do.

One of my favorite chapters deals with the creation of an alter ego as an effective strategy for building confidence. The book explains how this strategy could be effective and then provided worksheets to design an alter ego (with examples). I’m not going to give away my secret identity, but I tried it during a road race or two this year. I implemented a trigger, as recommended, and when I put on my race sunglasses, I was in character and all business. Did it work? Yeah, I would say it did. It felt silly, but it worked. I had a little more confidence, and it was noticeable.

I think the whole approach of The Brave Athlete is a success because it encourages you to face your fears in small chunks (the 13 problems). When you identify your fears, you start to realize things like “I do this a lot, so I should be better than I give myself credit for.” The introspection is very helpful, and the two authors provide practical help.

They give great advice on things like choosing the words you use to describe yourself, creating an alter ego, and handling things like body image issues and race anxiety. Your actions and thoughts have a consequence, and it is on you to make these good consequences. The authors are insightful, funny, and useful. My only regret is that I bought it on Kindle, and I would have liked to have the book to easily copy the worksheets and handouts.

Being mentally tough gives you both a competitive edge, as well as a better chance of getting through a race or event safely. After all, a lack of confidence can cause bad decisions that you will regret one way or another. I am going to revisit this book this upcoming year (2020) when I return to racing with a little more vim and vigor than this year.

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