Creak… creak… creak… Imagine that noise boring through your eardrums and into your head. You’re on an epic climb. It’s so long, so steep, and totally exposed without an inch of shade. And all you can think about is that obnoxious creaking noise coming from your bottom bracket. That noise kicks off other thoughts in your mind, feelings of frustration, anger, fatigue, and pain.
You’re pedaling a bike up that climb, but are you really riding it?
I would argue that you aren’t. Your mind is off in another place. You aren’t focused on the effort, and chances are, that means you’re not riding to the level that you had planned to do. Maybe you’re not staying above your Power Floor for the day’s workout. Or this could be happening during a race that you’d planned and trained for over the last couple months. And instead of focusing on the effort, keeping your mind in control, that creak was the first crack that led you to a point where you aren’t in control mentally … and you’re off the back.
We are all distracted by creaking bottom brackets at certain points in our lives as cyclists — both real and metaphorical. In fact, I’ve consistently found that many of my CINCH clients and other cyclists I’ve met face similar challenges that go beyond the physiology of cycling and tap into the psychology of the sport.
These cyclists had things like raw fitness, good nutrition, and even execution skills. But they were building that house without a strong mental foundation. They might have great Fitness, Execution, and Nutrition, but they’re missing the fourth pillar. I almost wanted to start this book with the Focus pillar because it is so fundamental. It sets you up to manage the rest of the stuff that comes with being a competitive cyclist. The Focus pillar of the FORM method is your foundation, and if you don’t have these things you don’t have anything to stand on when a ride or race gets truly tough. From what I’ve seen, the people who fall apart and give up on racing aren’t building on a strong foundation that comes from the Focus pillar.
When those people are cycling, they’re constantly asking their bodies for feedback — how do my legs feel? Am I breathing too hard? Why is my bottom bracket creaking? You’re taught to look for these things. It’s good to be aware, but you shouldn’t actively look for that feedback in the moment and let it creep into your mental state. Ideally, you should assess it before or after the ride. In the midst of a workout or a ride, you should be just driving with your brain, using it to direct your body’s effort, not the other way around.
Your mind can only think one thought at a time. In these creaky bottom bracket moments, it is wandering away from the task of driving your body on the bike. Instead of letting it get away from you like that, I’m going to teach you a mental concentration practice that will center your mind on the thoughts you need for peak performance.
Cycling has lots of distractions, and in the Focus pillar of the FORM Method, I will teach you to push away that noise. With this system, you’ll essentially train your mind to withstand the toughest rides and races on your calendar and harness its power to govern your effort.
This is your mental training plan.
The FORM Core Performance Qualities (CPQ) are sort of like your mind’s 10 key workouts to build your FOCUS pillar. Whether it’s before your ride, during a workout, or when you wake up in the morning, you should consistently devote yourself to these mantras using Black Line Clarity, a mental tool I’ve developed to help you check in and prime your brain for the day’s effort.
Like any other training plan, consistency and repetition are key to truly getting the benefits of the Focus pillar. To a certain extent, this practice is a way to reprogram your mental approach to challenges. You probably have some established beliefs about yourself and what you can do. What I want you to get out of the focus pillar is a new set of beliefs that are based on repeated thoughts, over and over, that put you in the state of mind to succeed at cycling and life in general.
I have met enough cyclists over the years to know that some of you will be skeptical of this pillar of the FORM Method. It’s easy to look at a tough training plan and get excited by its potential, but something like the CPQ tends to make people roll their eyes. Well, don’t roll your eyes! You can trust me when I say that this is the most crucial element of the FORM Method. Ignore it and you’ll never reach your full potential. To really hit that message home, I’m going to introduce each CPQ with a common complaint that I’ve heard from riders. I am sure that you’ve felt at least one of them at a point in your life as a cyclist.
“I’M NOT MOTIVATED”
1. I See with Forward Focus
I’ve had a number of athletes come to me with this problem. They don’t have motivation, and they think I’m the guy who’s holding onto all of this magical currency like some kind of Fort Knox for motivation. Or they act like motivation is their pet dog who ran away yesterday. Can you help me find my motivation? No, I can’t! You need to find it on your own, and you need to find it inside yourself.
The first CPQ, Forward Focus, helps address a lack of motivation. I find many cyclists lack motivation because they are trapped in their present state. They are fixated on the granular day-to-day challenges without picking their heads up to look forward to see the path to the bigger picture right in front of them. By focusing forward a “road” emerges from the fog and becomes visible to their long-term goals. This new view of the opportunity that is right in front of them is now the fuel that motivation burns with.
People who fall short are close-minded, stuck on only staying with the group ride or finishing in the peloton. They are not looking ahead and seeing bigger, better visions of who they can become.
When people tell me they are not motivated, I find there are usually two issues: They feel aimless because they lack a focus on their future, or they are derailed by a bad performance. And a lot of times, these things can be combined.
Often, something has come to their attention that’s derailing them from their original goal, their original vision. People will make objectives like wanting to do well in a race. That could fall through and they lose the Forward Focus on long-term objective and start making excuses for why their original goal is no longer possible. They get so focused on the past, that if a workout doesn’t happen or a race isn’t a success, they forget the greater goal they’re working toward.
This CPQ reminds you to lead with your focus on what is in front of you, your dreams and aspirations, and to keep moving toward them, rather than getting stuck in the past. I want this CPQ to push you to always move forward no matter what you can get hung up on.
Forward Focus is all about working hard on something but always looking forward, chasing your future targets. Use this CPQ and you’ll be creating all the motivation you need to accomplish your goals.
“I Do Not Force My Path”
"I am Unstoppable."
“No Matter What”
“I FEEL BURNED OUT”
2. I am the Author of my Story
How do you perceive your daily, monthly, and yearly commitment to cycling? Do you look at each ride like an ad in a newspaper hoping to a yield quick sale? Or is each ride more like a chapter in the best selling novel you are working on? If you are writing a best selling book, then having days of struggle are important to include! In fact they make the story more powerful, interesting, and authentic. Just like the best seller, the good and bad days are crucial to your cycling a success. Consistency trumps perfection.
I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t easy to stay committed to cycling day after day, year after year. We invest so much in this sport — our time, effort, energy, emotions, money, and more. What do we get in return? A lot of days, we get our asses kicked. When you’re getting dropped on the group ride, falling short of your Strava PRs, or you’re failing to get the USA Cycling points you want to upgrade to the next category, it’s natural to start questioning why you’re doing it all.
This is often when cyclists get burnt out. The riders I know who have struggled the most are on this rollercoaster of burnout and motivation. They rally for two months, drill it on every workout and do okay in the races. But then they crack, and then they give up for another few months.
It’s easy for athletes to say they are committed, but the consistency of their training files can tell a different story. But the reality is all days matter, and if you look at each one as a page best selling story you are the author of, it is easy to be consistent.
Consistency in cycling is far superior to one amazing performance, or one week, or even one month. With this “author of my own story” ownership, I have never seen a rider burn out being dedicated to cycling, committed to it, and consistently willing to follow through on this personal investment. In this scenario all days matter, each one (good and bad) are important to making this masterpiece.
This CPQ will help remind you that the process of the FORM Method takes priority above perfection. People who burn out often have unrealistic expectations, they are missing that self-awareness that comes with keeping your focus on your own process.
Whether you’re deep in the pit of a burn-out, or at the top of your game following the FORM Method, the same step-by-step method applies. This is all about your story. You are the author writing about your dedication, your commitment to the process, and your journey to personal progression. Use this CPQ to remain aware of this foundation for your work, to remind yourself of what your process means to you and its importance to your daily life, not perfection.
"I own it."
“I am process driven.”
“I’M NOT TOUGH ENOUGH”
3. I Create Grit from my Gratitude
Follow cycling for long enough and you’ll see the sport’s obsession with grit, pain, and suffering. Tyler Hamilton made headlines in the New York Times for finishing fourth in the 2003 Tour de France with a broken collarbone. Clothing company Rapha glorifies the suffering in its ads, videos, and on its website. From what I have seen, all of this tends to confuse a lot of cyclists.
The riders I’ve talked to have been indoctrinated in this crazy cult of suffering. They go out and try to harness the grit that they’re told is mandatory to be a “real” cyclist, and they find out that it kind of sucks. It’s hard. It’s not rewarding. They get dropped in a tough race and think they’re not gritty enough.
They’re expecting to be able to handle an hors-categorie grit test before they’ve mastered categories 4, 3, 2, and 1 of grittiness. The Grit frome Gratitude CPQ helps you understand the fundamentals of grit so that you trust that there is a purpose to the suffering.
Use this CPQ to affirm your willingness to put yourself out there, to challenge yourself. If you ask me, true suffering is what people experience when they have a terrible disease, are living in poverty, or have a disability. When you’re on a bike and you’re in pain — that’s optional! You knew what you signed up for. You’re in charge of how hard you ride and how much it hurts. But that’s what is so special about cycling. You chose to make yourself better. This is your challenge to overcome and that pain is a privilege. It has a purpose, and you need to use this CPQ to focus it in a way that makes you better.
To be a gritty person you have to be thankful, to love what you have when it comes to your ability, skill, and direction. People that are at a loss as to how to “get gritty” aren’t embracing the privilege to challenge themselves. You have to truly love cycling and the challenge of the process. Be thankful you have this opportunity. This CPQ fuels your passion for what you’re able to do on a bike (even if you’re sometimes getting dropped!). Don’t ever take it for granted.
When you are grateful for who you are and what you have, you can withstand anything a group ride or a race throws at you.
"Progress is NOT pass/fail."
"Bad days = Growth, Good days = Practice."
"Patience is the most critical component of my work ethic."
"When I find myself struggling, I replace my feeling of suffering with my passion for overcoming."
“I DON’T HAVE ANY CONFIDENCE”
4. I Possess Positive Self Awareness
Trust me, I have been here before! Confidence is a precious commodity as a cyclist, and sometimes all it takes is one bad race to lose it for weeks if not longer.
It is critical to put disappointing results or difficult days behind you. You have to pivot once a bad day is over and look ahead to the next challenge using a positive mindset to give you energy and confidence to turn that corner. Your outlook and perspective has a powerful influence on your energy level, and if you can make it a positive one, you will find yourself able to confidently move forward.
The fastest and most effective way to create this positive energy is by looking inward at yourself. The simple reflection and self-awareness of personal abilities, skills, and direction you possess in which you view as positive creates on energized self-confidence. A place to help you quickly find this positive self attributes that create this energized confidence could be you found in something you have been doing well recently in training. Maybe a workout you feel strongly in, a type of terrain you have been enjoying, a recent challenge you overcome, or a personal performance you have been inspired by. Whatever the positive self-attributes you have, you must look inward to start the flame of self-confidence.
Sounds easy enough right? But it’s not! Not at all. In today’s world, negativity is everywhere flooding and suffocating us before we even have a chance to look inward — at races, group rides, on Twitter. The people with negative things to say are very loud. Also, be aware of the trap of becoming negative yourself to join the others. Expressing negativity is an easy way to bond with other people because everyone has something negative to gripe about.
But at the end of the day, it is you who is responsible for your success. Your struggles, whether they are your fault or not, it is your choice to get stuck with insecurity, or move forward with positive confidence. At the least I would like you to view the Positive Self Awareness CPQ as your daily reminder to set that negativity aside, look inward, reset, and energize yourself with positive confidence.
What you will experience is that the world will look like you want it to. In every race, ride, workplace interaction, or anything else, there’s always a good and a bad side. You can either see it positively or negatively. Challenge yourself to take a negative situation and flip it. Find the positive in it and feel energized with the self confidence you pivot with.
Have you felt the low energy that comes from a negative outlook, that feeling that you can’t push on? Positive Self Awareness can turn that 180 degrees.
"I am good enough."
"It is ok to feel the way I do."
"I have the control."
“It is my responsibly to myself, my fault or not, to move forward.”
“I CAN’T SWITCH OFF AFTER A BAD RIDE”
5. I Have the Ability to Pivot
Imagine you are in the middle of the ocean. You are sailing along and hit a iceberg. Does this story sound familiar? As the ship starts to capize you have two choices get on the raft or grab a bucket and start trying to get water off the boat. This CPQ is related to Positive Self Awareness in that it pushes you to look beyond the negatives that might have come out of a recent race or ride. You have to push yourself to live with a positive mindset that thrives on problem-solving and more over know when it’s time to get off the boat.
Any time you have a bad race or a disappointing workout, there is something to learn. You might have made a mistake in your Execution. Perhaps it revealed a weakness in your Fitness. Even the best-prepared riders occasionally make mistakes with their nutrition, which can also lead to a bad result. I commonly see people making the same mistake over and over. What’s is famously the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I’m not sure if that’s Webster’s actual definition but you get my point.
When you pivot, you consciously take the lesson learned and you use it to move in a new direction, one that works for you as a cyclist. That could mean a long hard look at your Rider Type — maybe you are trying to ride like someone you are not. It could also mean finding a new, creative approach to a ride or race that has been your kryptonite. Perhaps, on your weekly group ride your attack on the course’s one big climb hasn’t been worked. Why not pivot and try attacking on the descent after or in the rolling hills before that climb?
If you struggle with self-awareness, this CPQ is for you. People who aren’t realistic with themselves are naturally inclined to put more energy into something if it’s not working. If they are bad on long climbs, they constantly try to force themselves to become mountain goats. Instead they should look to this CPQ and recognize their approach isn’t working. Pivot to a different direction or a different solution or process and use your abilities and skills to solve your problem in a better way.
Pivotability is the engrained ability to interpret when to change direction when facing strong adversity. When a river meets an obstacle like a rock or a tree, it can’t continue to flow in the same direction, but it always finds a way around and keeps flowing downhill.
"I feel true power when I leave the struggle behind in my wake."
"I nimbly use my mistakes as critical learning opportunities."
“I’M NOT AS GOOD AS EVERYONE ELSE”
6. I am Here to Give, Not to Take
Any sport feeds our natural impulse to compare ourselves to the competition. Cycling is especially harsh that way because instead of simply winning or losing a tennis game or a round of golf, you could end up finishing 57th out of 71 riders in a race. It’s no surprise that I hear a lot of athletes complain that they aren’t as good as the competition.
However, the results sheet is really one of the most disruptive things a cyclist can look at if they’re trying to improve. There are so many variables that went into that one piece of paper. The majority of those factors were totally out of your control.
Besides competition, sport can steer us towards trying to meet or beat performance expectations. PR times to hit, power to hold, and past averages can influence us to give up mid effort because we are afraid of falling short.
Riders more often than not let competition and performance expectations negatively influence their mindset, their training, and even their fundamental love of the sport.
What if you took all the competitors and performance expectations out of the equation. This CPQ is all about centering your belief on your effort that is part of your own proven process. By doing this you immediately shed comparing yourself to others, fear of failure, and pressure to perform. Instant freedom creates the environment to give your best effort.
Master the “I am Here to Give, Not to Take” CPQ and you’ll be able to overcome the high pressure situations, fight through the toughests of rides, and conquer the most competitive environments. The best part of this CPQ is it creates the foundation to consistently execute in the increasing number of high pressure/competitive situations you will find yourself in as you progress.
"I am here to give, not to take."
"I do not fear failure."
"I have iron certainty in my ability, skills, and direction from my proven process."
“I’M NOT HAVING FUN”
7. I Use Resource over Force
It breaks my heart to hear athletes say they are not having any fun riding and racing. But it also presents an exciting opportunity for me to help them rediscover what made them fall in love with cycling in the first place
A lot of times, riders who aren’t having fun have hit a plateau in their progression. For a few years they have increased their threshold power, passed through through the racing categories, and now finish at the front of the group rides they were dropped from before. They experienced so much progress, but now they are stuck. Or so they think.
Progress is addictive, and when you lose that high, cycling quickly becomes far less fun. The FORM Method is designed to teach you a new way of cycling, a dynamic form of the sport that is tuned specifically for the rhythm of a race or a group ride. With this all encompassing version, you can rely on more than just brut force to create progression. Now new concepts are entered into the performance arena like application, technique, timing, strategy, and style. With all of these tools and strategies, resource, or execution of these assets allows you to perform higher, and often-times with less energy.
The Resource Over Force CPQ is designed to focus your attention on the execution of total sport of cycling — not the simple power meter contest that a lot of people get obsessed with.
This CPQ combines proactivity creating a strategy and efficiency executing it with your tools. It’s your reminder to be resourceful on the roads, on the trails, and in the peloton. Most of the other riders on your rides or races probably expect to do what everyone else does and hope they have it in the end. Instead, the Resource Over Force CPQ reminds you to look at your skills and abilities and use those tools to proactively and resourcefully be your best for a given course or event.
If you bring this CPQ into your cycling, the sport becomes more fun as you skillfully execute a strategic use of your strengths while exercising absolute resourcefulness.
"I am driven to do more with less."
"My focus is to deliver precise power over maximum power."
"I execute proper timing instead of forcing speed."
“WHY AM I TRYING SO HARD? THIS ISN’T MY DAY JOB”
8. Personal Progress is My Priority
This excuse is such a cop-out. Think of all of your riding buddies, the ones who live and breathe cycling. I’m sure a lot of them put in as much effort on the bike as they do at their desks at the office … Maybe more in some cases!
Just because you aren’t getting paid to do something doesn’t make it less worthy of your time, effort, and devotion.
What separates the best athletes from the rest is their devotion to their personal progression, not the support they have doing it or the level of rewards they get from it. This hunger for progression feeds them as cyclists, and a lot of times, this same mentality translates into the rest of their lives — yes, even their day jobs.
I want you to challenge yourself to truly buy into the state of constant personal progression that comes with following the FORM Method. Make improvement a habit — own it, and go into your life with that commitment.
Be prepared to challenge yourself with this CPQ, though. Understand that you’ll have failures and setbacks in this state of Prioritizing Personal Progress. That’s the nature of what we are doing. You’re not repeating something you’ve done before. If you have broken a physical barrier last year, it’s time to level up this year. This puts you in a scary zone of the unknown. Make a habit of going to that uncomfortable place by embracing the uncertainty and fear. In other words, get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
This CPQ helps you cope with the increasing challenge presented by bettering your best. Constant improvement is fulfilling, and I find it motivates most cyclists. But as you get better, it becomes harder and harder to get better. When you get to that point you have to check yourself and return to the “Personal Progress is my Priority” CPQ. You pushed yourself to this point and got to this level — that is amazing. Now what?
Make progression your habit. It’s what you do. Wake up motivated because every day is an opportunity to better yourself. Use this CPQ to give yourself clarity of focus. You are here to improve and progress. That is a privilege. You’re doing it for yourself, not for other people, not to prove anything. Doing it because it’s part of your daily, process-driven habit. As you evolve process gets harder and harder and that is okay.
Eventually, this becomes a routine process that is driven by the opportunity of constant progression, and you won’t have that opportunity if you don’t embrace the risk of failure.
"I am process-driven instead of results-focused."
"I know I must train consistently using my tools and processes to be able to use them when I need them the most."
“I DON’T FEEL LIKE I’M ACCOMPLISHING ANYTHING ON MY RIDES”
9. I am Fueled with CIN-ergy
We cyclists are obsessive. By this point in this book, you’ve read my thoughts on things like FTP, TSS, and weight loss. Hopefully I can eventually convince you that you shouldn’t fixate on these single factors that always trip up competitive cyclists. There is a bigger picture here, and if you’re finishing a ride and feeling lost or unproductive, the CIN-ergy CPQ is your reminder that we are working on a much greater project than just a single workout or power number.
The whole of your own journey through the FORM Method is worth way more than the sum of the parts. A lot of people just look at one thing and think it will solve all of their problems as cyclists. They get dropped on a flat, fast group ride, so of course they just need to dial up more power. They are dropped in a hilly road race, so obviously it means they should get skinnier.
These granular obsessions are irresistible for us cyclists. But a truly extraordinary result occurs when you put your ability, skill, and devotion together to work hard and achieve something much greater than the sum of those elements added together.
This is why I’ve designed the FORM Method around the Four Pillars. It is meant to spread the load around so you can still win your ride even if you can’t match up to the competition on raw fitness alone.
If you find yourself losing sight of the bigger picture, this CPQ is for you. It reinforces the fact that your process has to be multifaceted to get you to the place that you really want to go, to chase your ultimate goals. Doing one climb fast doesn’t make you a perfect climber. You could do it every week for a month and you still wouldn’t be there. However, when it is combined with all the other parts of FORM, it can add up to truly making you a better climber. .
Remind yourself that you have to have all of the pillars of FORM together to truly get to a higher level. In fact, it’s a lot more fun to bring it all together like that rather than just beating your head against the wall on the same climb every week. Even if you get dropped in a ride or a race, when you focus on CIN-ergy, you have the opportunity to succeed in a variety of ways and feel more fulfilled because you’re improving yourself for the long term.
“The journey over the destination.”
“THE RESULTS I GET DON’T MATCH MY EXPECTATIONS”
10. My Results Guide Me, They do Not Define Me.
I bet that practically every time you finish a group ride or race, you come to the finish and mill around with your fellow competitors, and someone there is griping about their race or making excuses for why it didn’t work out the way they wanted.
It’s natural to have expectations of the results you are targeting. Sometimes you beat them; sometimes you match them; and sometimes you fall short. However, no matter the outcome, there is always something positive and critical to your growth you can pull from them.
Most people look at results in a very unhealthy and unproductive perspective. They look at them as if they are a confirmation that they need to justify their effort. Or they look at results as proof that they are what they think they should be. But using results to define who you are in this manner will leave you stuck in your tracks. If you succeed, you are at a standstill, complacent as you are overly content and using your past to define your future success. If you fall short, then you are also a standstill, paralyzed with shame and disappointment, reluctant to try as you think you future will be like your past, a failure.
But what if you change results from a need of confirmation to a guide of direction? Suddenly a result goes from a pot of gold to a road map. The frantic sense of need you had shifts now to a confident sense of direction.
We are in this for the long game, for the constant personal progress, and continuous fulfillment. With this CPQ, now you can perform the FORM way. Free yourself from the pressure from using results to defining you, and instead use results as guides on your continuous the path forward. No matter what is on paper, now you will always win.
“I win my ride.”
“I create my own path, I don’t compete by taking the path of others.”