When we sit down and really think about all of the things that our bodies do every day, it’s positively mind blowing.
Think about your day to day activities…waking up, making meals, going to work, hugging friends and family…our body makes all of this possible!
Then, when we think about what our body allows us to do when we ride a bike?
It’s absolutely incredible. We balance. We spin our legs. We push ourselves to get stronger, cycle up hills, and go greater and greater distances.
Our muscle memory allows us to clip in, clip out, shift…all the things that we struggled with at first come so naturally to us after we have done it a bunch of times!
Even when we haven’t ridden our bikes in a while we can surprise the crap out of ourselves when we hop on. Not only do we remember how to ride, but we also realize that we are still pretty darn good at it!
And yet, when it comes to how we actually think about ourselves and our bodies as female cyclists, it is so easy to slip into negative self-talk.
We chastise our bodies for being too slow on the bike, or even just not being fast enough.
We look in the mirror and don’t like how we look in our cycling kit.
We compare ourselves to other female cyclists and wonder why we don’t measure up.
Sometimes it isn’t even this overt, or this obvious.
Think about some of the self-deprecating comments you often hear or maybe yourself uttered on a group ride.
Maybe you said there was no way you were going to get up that hill.
Maybe you made an off-hand comment about not being fast enough…or not being able to keep up.
So many of us women have had these thoughts or made these comments about ourselves at one time or another.
What we don’t always realize is that they aren’t serving us, and they are, in fact, actually hurting us.
I am going to share with you some tips to help you stop those negative body thoughts in their tracks, and help you turn those self-deprecating thoughts to neutral and positive ones.
Tip #1: Bring Attention and Awareness to Your Thoughts About Your Body
Sometimes our negative self-talk is so ingrained that we don’t even notice it.
After we have been cycling for a while we just intuitively know how to shift to get the performance we want out of our bodies and our bikes.
We do the same thing with our thoughts about our bodies.
The first step is to actually work to pay attention to how you think and feel about your body.
When you are getting ready to go on a bike ride and are pulling on your cycling kit, what are you thinking?
When you look in the mirror and see yourself in your cycling clothes, what thoughts come to mind?
Are your thoughts making you feel good?
Making you feel stronger? Are you thinking something along the lines of “look at those strong cycling legs!”
Are they just kind of neutral? Like “Yup, that’s a body!”
Or are they making you feel bad? Are you thinking, “Hrm. I sure could stand to lose a few pounds.”
The first step in the process to having a positive relationship with your body as a female cyclist is to simply bring awareness to your thoughts.
Are they serving you? If they are not, it might be time to make some changes.
Tip #2: Understand that your thoughts about your cycling body are optional, and that you can change them.
Every single thought you have is optional.
It is not a fact that you are too fat in your cycling clothes.
It is not a fact that your legs look bad in your cycling shorts.
It is not a fact that you have no business at all wearing a tight-fitting cycling kit.
These are all completely optional thoughts that you have the power to change.
Once you realize that all of your thoughts are just thoughts, and not facts, then you can start looking at how to make those negative thoughts more neutral.
Tip #3: Turn Your Negative Thoughts into Neutral, Believable Thoughts
You will be tempted to take a negative thought about your body such as “My legs suck!” to a positive one like “My legs are awesome!”
The problem with this, is that your brain won’t believe it if it isn’t ready for the positive thought.
Your brain is just way too smart for that.
This is why positive affirmations don’t usually work. Saying, “I’m amazing!” over and over again if you don’t actually believe it won’t move the needle forward the way you want it to.
If instead you try a more neutral thought, such as “I have a body” or “I have arms”?
This is a step in the right direction. This is something your brain can actually believe.
Even a thought such as “I have a body.” or “I want to make changes to my body, and that’s OK.” Is so much more neutral.
These thoughts are helpful because they are light. They don’t weigh you down in the same way as negative ones.
These thoughts are believable.
They are thoughts that you can work with.
Tip #4: Focus on and Celebrate What your Body Can DO
I cannot emphasize this enough.
Focusing on what your body can do, not what it looks like, is essential to having a positive relationship with your body as a female cyclist.
Especially if you find your thoughts about how your body looks tend towards the negative.
Instead of saying “I hate my legs,” what if you were to say something like “I have legs, and they allow me to ride my bike?”
Thinking about everything your legs do for you every day can really help you appreciate them!
With my legs, I like to focus on where they came from.
My Dad had strong, powerful legs.
Whenever I have a negative thought about my legs, I like to remember that I inherited my legs from my Dad.
I like to remember conversations that we would have about our rather short, muscular legs and how powerful they are.
Focusing on the power of my legs and what they can do, instead of what they look like, was the first step in starting to really appreciate my legs.
Tip #5: Brainstorm and “Try on” Positive Thoughts
After you have successfully identified and labeled your negative thoughts, and moved them from negative to neutral, it’s time to start trying on some more positive thoughts.
By moving from my negative thoughts about my legs, to neutral legs, to focusing on what they can do, to remembering my connection with my Dad?
I can now say that I love my legs.
Their shape and strength reminds me of my Dad.
Their marks and bruises remind me of every time I crashed my bike, got up, and continued to ride.
I even love the tattooed chain grease marks they seem to always sport.
It’s a reminder of how my legs help me ride my bike, get up hills, and get faster and stronger.
Nothing about my legs physically had to change for me to love them.
I just had to change my thoughts about them.
Imagine how powerful this is.
Your body doesn’t have to change at all for you to love it.
All that has to change is your thoughts.
You can love your body AND be perfectly OK with exactly where it’s at.
You can love your body AND want to make changes to it.
If you already love and respect your body, and appreciate your body, you are much more likely to be able to make the changes you want.
It will be so much easier, it will feel good, and those changes are a lot more likely to stick.
When I lost weight cycling I did it from this place of love and appreciation for everything my body could do.
I learned how to stop beating myself up, and appreciate myself exactly as I was.
I can honestly say that even if I didn’t lose any weight at all, it would have been OK.
I would have been OK.
I would have been good.
I figured out that I wasn’t going to be any better if I lost weight, my body was just going to be different.
There wasn’t anything wrong with me, there wasn’t anything I had to fix, and my negative thoughts about my body weren’t serving me.
I promise you, if you work on having a positive relationship with your body right now, there is nothing you or your body can’t do.
Not only that, you will actually feel good! You won’t feel down on yourself, or even disappointed.
You will be giving yourself and your body grace.
The best way to improve as a cyclist is to believe in your body and focus on the amazing things it can do.
When you are your body’s biggest cheerleader, you will be able to make it stronger and healthier from an awesome place of loving it and what it can accomplish.