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The Cycling "Suffer" Mindset

"All athletes that wish to excel must confront ... exertion pain"[Kress & Statler 2007] hence the cycling "suffer" mindset, e.g., "Garmin's suffer score." Pain must be experienced in intensity training and racing to reach optimal performance. Always being comfortable on your bike will maintain performance but will not advance performance for high-level athletes.

The relationship between mental toughness and performance has consistently shown improvement in both cognitive and motor skills associated with mental toughness [Clough et al. 2002; Crust & Clough, 2005]. Golby et al. (2003). Golby et al. 2003, demonstrated that elite athletes have a higher-level of mental toughness than lower performer.

Commonly used techniques are four-fold to cope with exercise induced pain [Corbett et al. 2012, Brick et al., 2016]:

1. Social facilitation: competition within groups is more effective than solo efforts

2. Goal setting, to break a long task into multiple more manageable short-term goals 

3. Focus and celebrate achieving the next goal in the sequence, i..e, focus on a high quality interval or lap in a race, once completed celebrate and move on to the next interval or lap

4. To embrace pain, make physical exertion to suffering a goal to achieve in a race or intense training session.

In summary the "3p's"; pain, passion and perseverance, to improve performance.


  1. Kress & Statler, 2007. A Naturalistic Investigation of Former Olympic Cyclists' Cognitive Strategies for Coping with Exertion Pain During Performance. Journal of Sport Behavior. (30), 4, 2007. 428-452

  2. Clough, Earle & Sewell, 2002. Mental Toughness: The Concept and Its Measurement. In I. Cockerill (Ed.), Solutions in Sport Psychology (pp. 32-43). London: Thomson

  3. Crust & Clough, 2005. Relationship Between Mental Toughness and Physical Endurance. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 100(1), 192–194

  4. Golby, Sheard & Lavallee, 2003..A Cognitive-behavioural analysis of mental toughness in national rugby league football teams. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 96, 455-462

  5. Corbett, Barwood, Ouzounoglou Thelwell, Dicks, 2012. Influence of competition on performance and pacing during cycling exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012, 44(3):509-15

  6. Brick, MacIntyre & Campbell, 2016. Thinking and Action: A Cognitive Perspective on Self-Regulation during Endurance Performance. Front. Physiol., 27. 

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