How do you imagine finishing Prudential RideLondon? With a big smile? Sprinting for the line to beat a mate? Punching the sky (that move we all secretly practice just in case we ever win a race). Hopefully all three.
Dr Josephine Perry runs a sports psychology consultancy – Performance in Mind. Her career spans across journalism, PR and crisis communication across private corporations and government. She is a regular contributor to Athletics Weekly & has previously written for Cycling Weekly. She is the proud owner of five bikes and is always looking for an excuse to add another!
How do you imagine finishing a big cycling event such as Prudential RideLondon? Many of us enjoy the riding but immediately afterwards start beating ourselves up having decided we should have gone faster or trained harder. We become so fixated on working out how to squeeze a little bit more out of ourselves we forget the first really important step after an event… celebrating our success.
Celebrating our successes is not just fun, it actually has a vital role to play in helping us love our riding, whether we have just won an Olympic gold or completed our first Prudential RideLondon event. It allows us to reflect on what has gone well and how to continue doing that, rather than the common focus (through our inbuilt negativity bias) of what went wrong and how to fix it. This enables us to build a positive memory bank of evidence that reminds us we can achieve our goals if we put the time and effort in. Celebrating gives us that time to acknowledge the positives before moving on to what is next.
Celebrations also give us a chance to thank those who’ve been supportive in our cycling journey; our coach or physio if we have one, our family or club mates. Research from the University of Massachusetts published in 2015 in Sport Management Review found that making the effort to celebrate creates an enhanced sense of inclusiveness and distinctiveness and helps build camaraderie among team members.
There is also a stack of research highlighting the benefits of being grateful for what we have and what we are able to do. Studies have found gratitude can improve your physical health, sleep, happiness, self-esteem, levels of empathy and can reduce levels of stress and aggression. And some of the research suggests we don’t even have to have a specific something to be grateful for, it is the process of try to find something that gives the positive boost to our brain and our emotions. So, spending the time thinking about what we enjoyed, valued and feel privileged for, is a helpful way to feel happier both mentally and physically.
So, celebrating gives us a positive memory bank of our successes, means we can thank those who’ve helped us and boosts our positive emotions. Hurrah. But what is the best way to celebrate? Well, let’s start with how not to celebrate.
Firstly, do not celebrate too early. One rider who did was the cyclist Eloy Tervel who, in 2014, celebrated winning a stage of the Tour of California a lap early. He was then overtaken and lost.
Secondly, do not celebrate too dramatically. Research in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness in 2015 analysed 62 athletes who had injuries caused by celebrations. Their actions; mainly leaping into the air, pile ups, sliding, and somersaults, most commonly caused ACL ruptures and ankle sprains. 26% of these injuries were so serious the athletes needed surgery.
Finally, don’t mess up the rest of your season. If Prudential RideLondon isn’t your last big ride of the year and you go out on a monster celebration you risk undoing lots of your hard work! So, if you are on a longer journey, celebrate, but do so on a small scale so you maintain your diligence and can still do well in your next race or sportive.
So, with bunny hopping down the finish line inadvisable (tempting as it may be), here are eight ideas for how you can you make the the most of your achievement and celebrate finishing. We’d love to hear your others…
– Get snapping. Take the time to enjoy photographs; on the podium, with your bike, in front of the palace, with the riders you finished with, with random tourists confusedly wandering past!
– Get crafty and make up a frame to hold your medal, some photos, a map of the course and your ride number.
– Go out for a meal with club mates or family to celebrate your success and thank them for their support.
– Have a picnic at the end where you can eat absolutely anything except energy gels and electrolyte drink.
– Sleep in on the next Sunday morning to make up for all those Sunday lie-ins you missed while training.
– Give your bike a lovely bubble bath (well one made up of Muc-Off and WD40) to keep it sparkling for your next ride.
– Treat yourself to some new kit, especially if there was anything you used in your challenge which let you down or you wished you’d had to make it more enjoyable or comfortable.
– And, finally, (cause you can only hold off for so long) make a new goal and enter your next big sportive.