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How Perfectionism Can Ruin Your Training and What to Do About It

By Jiri Kaloc

Perfectionism can be a double-edged sword when it comes to cycling training. On one hand, it can be a motivating force that pushes you to strive for your best performance. On the other hand, it can lead to negative consequences that hinder your progress and your enjoyment of the sport. Here are some ways perfectionism can ruin your cycling training, and what you can do about it.

How do you know you’re a perfectionist?

Realising you are dealing with perfectionism can be tough. It can manifest in different ways in every cyclist. Here is a list of behaviours that may help you spot it. If several of the following things ring a bell, you may be tending towards unhealthy perfectionism.

  • Increasing standards as soon as you reach standards you set for yourself previously
  • Receiving feedback or criticism leads to defensiveness
  • Procrastinating frequently
  • Seeking the approval of others
  • Feeling guilty very often
  • Being highly critical of others

If you suspect you may be a perfectionist, note that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some people with those tendencies manage them so they don’t negatively impact their cycling. More commonly, perfectionism results in the following issues.

Fear of failure

Perfectionists are often so fixated on achieving their goals that they become afraid of failure. Reluctance to take on challenges is a common consequence of this. When someone seeks perfection, their willingness to accept anything less prevents them from taking risk or even attempting some things. This can lead to a lack of enjoyment in cycling, self-doubt, and even anxiety.

Road cyclist
Fear of failure can significantly affect your training. © Profimedia

Increased likelihood of failing

Perfectionists don’t give themselves enough opportunities to succeed. The tendency to avoid events where the likelihood of failure is moderate to high reduces the total number of attempts. This is a big problem when it comes to cycling. It takes trial and error to learn how to complete a challenging race, it takes experience in races to start winning. Reducing the number of tries means perfectionists are lowering their chances of eventually succeeding.

Overtraining and injury

The need to constantly push yourself to the limit and beyond often results in overtraining or burnout when not managed properly. It can also lead to an increased frequency of injuries. The body simply can’t consistently achieve the perfection that the mind thinks up.

Perfect workouts and races don’t exist

To combat perfectionism, it helps to work with a coach. A good coach can be demanding in training while explaining that they don’t expect perfect outcomes. They can use their experience to show you that perfect workouts don’t exist and neither do perfect races, ways to eat, drink, or sleep.

If you don’t have the opportunity to get a coach, focus on changing one thing in your approach to cycling training. Just keep trying! Get practice with coming up short, and intentionally expose yourself to imperfect conditions. Talk to other cyclists and learn about their struggles to improve. And just keep showing up.

Focus on being perfect at something, not everything

If your efforts at managing perfectionism aren’t successful, you can take it on in a different way. Try consciously aiming for perfection in something very narrow and specific. That can be getting your hydration throughout the day just right, setting up your sleeping environment for the best recovery, or keeping your bicycle perfectly maintained for every ride. Having an outlet for your perfection can help you ease up in other aspects of cycling.

Remember that cycling training should be enjoyable and rewarding. By combating perfectionism and focusing on progress and improvement, you can develop a healthier relationship with the sport and achieve your goals in a sustainable way.