Calmness is a skill, not a trait.
Calmness requires practice.
My job on the training ride today was to spend as much time in the “green zone” as possible. That’s a moderate, sustainable effort (248 to 314W, for me). I had an hour to spend as much time in that zone as possible.
If you looked at my ride as a line on a graph, you’ll see a pretty good, consistent start. But then–a hill. My effort spikes up to yellow, then red…and then I’m too tired to hold the green zone. So I rest and start over and get back to green.
But over the hour, you’ll see me spike up to yellow more and more frequently. Toward the end, I’m almost never in the green zone, where I’m most productive. In fact, most of my time is spent trying to go TOO hard, and then being forced to slow down and recover.
The key to staying in the green zone on the bike isn’t pedalling easier or pushing a smaller gear. The key is remaining calm.
Instead of smashing and recovering; overcompensating and collapsing, a cyclist who can calmly return to their center–the green zone–will get a lot further in an hour.
How do you get calm? You control your breathing.
You ignore what everyone else is doing on Strava.
You forget your mistakes fast and focus on what’s ahead.
Sometimes, you have to ignore your instincts to attack.
Sometimes you have to push yourself to keep going at a moderate pace instead of collapsing because you can’t maintain maximal output.
Riding at 60% will get you further, faster, than riding at 100%, then 0%. Because momentum depends on consistency, and consistency depends on calmness.
Smooth is fast.
Calmness is not easy. It takes practice. Luckily, you can practice on a bike.