Mindfulness and the Art of Self-Deception


As cyclists, athletes, and even in our everyday lives, we often find ourselves pushed to the brink of our physical or emotional capacities. It’s in these moments that the battle turns inward, where our determination, resilience, and mental fortitude are put to the ultimate test. Over time, I’ve learned that to conquer the body’s resistance, one must first learn the art of deceiving the mind. Mindfulness – being present in the moment – plays a crucial role in this art.

Reflecting back on my journey, especially during events like the Eastern Sierra Double Century and more recently in training for the Hoodoo 300, I realized just how powerful the mind can be. In fact, many of my experiences – such as the ride from Santa Clarita to Mt. Pinos or the solo training venture through the Mojave desert – reiterated the importance of mental strength. These rides had their challenges, ranging from scorching heat waves to high altitudes, but what got me through was not just physical stamina but mental grit.

When I’m out on the road, pushing the pedals, feeling every bit of resistance from the environment and my body, I tell myself, “There is nowhere else I would rather be and nothing else I would rather be doing than being right here, right now.” Is it always true? Maybe not. But in that moment, it becomes my reality, and it’s a reality that propels me forward. Truth be told, I also use this technique to make it through law school and in my daily work as an attorney, when the stress ramps up to 11.

This isn’t the only “lie” I tell myself. Among my favorites are:

  • “Suffering is temporary, but the regret that comes from giving up is eternal.” It reminds me that pain is transient, but the disappointment of quitting can haunt us forever.
  • “Just push through to the next milestone, the next climb, the next mile, the next minute….” By breaking down a vast challenge into smaller, more digestible parts, it seems less daunting.
  • “WWJD (What would Jensie do?)” referencing Jens Voigt and his “shut up legs” approach to pain. This always gives me a chuckle and a motivational kick.
  • “I’ve come too far to quit now.” A reminder of the journey, the preparation, and the sacrifices made to get to this point.

But these self-deceptions aren’t about creating a false reality. They are about shifting our focus, recalibrating our mindset, and centering our energies on the task at hand, thus making it manageable. They work in tandem with mindfulness by ensuring that our present moment is filled with determination, focus, and positivity.

For those reading this, seeking strategies for their battles, I’ve compiled a list of mantras that have been my anchor during strenuous rides and challenges:

MantraWhen to Use
“Every step is progress.”When each bit of forward movement counts.
“Breathe in strength, breathe out weakness.”To focus on your breathing and draw strength from it.
“This too shall pass.”When facing transient pain or discomfort.
“I am capable, I am strong.”During moments of self-doubt or underestimation.
“Trust the process.”When progress is slow but consistent.
“Pain is weakness leaving the body.”To convert discomfort into a sign of improvement.
“I am bigger than this challenge.”To remind yourself of past obstacles you’ve overcome.
“One moment at a time.”To break challenges into manageable moments.
“The finish line is closer than it appears.”To push through the last stretch.
“Embrace the grind.”When understanding that difficulty is part of the journey.

Next time you’re out there, facing your challenge – whether it’s a grueling climb, an intense workout, or a stressful situation in life – try whispering one of these mantras to yourself. You might just find that the mountain ahead isn’t as insurmountable as it first appeared. The power of the mind, after all, knows no bounds.

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