Learning To Love the Thing That Won't Love You Back
You slowly stumble off from the seat, lean over so your hands rest on your knees, and with sweat dripping from your brow, you gasp for any amount of air that will enter your exhausted lungs. An all too familiar position, right? At least once a week, if not more, we all face this monostructural monster: the assault bike. Known for its ability to ramp up its resistance automatically with each increased push, pedal, and pull, makes it a deadly piece of equipment that has built its fierce reputation in the fitness industry.
The love-hate relationship the assault bike possesses tends to have people leaning more towards the side of hate. I mean, it does leave you breathless with legs that feel like they are filled with bricks yet it rewards hard work; not by making the work easier, but by pushing back just as hard as you push on it. One of the biggest faults I see when athletes approach the bike is in their mindset. Yes, It can be daunting to look at the board and read an astronomical amount of calories or miles upon miles of biking but I have found that it's all about how you approach the task at hand that makes all the difference.
Mindset is one of those things that you build. It doesn't happen overnight but it takes small changes to see big ones. Being mentally tough is something of an ‘It Factor’ in CrossFit. Maybe you're not the best at gymnastics and or don’t put up the heaviest deadlift, but if you are mentally tough, it carries into all aspects of fitness and even reflects onto everyday life. If you can convince yourself to push just a little bit harder when the lactic acid is building in your legs, then you can channel this mental state into your work, relationships, and daily tasks. Your ability to regulate everyday stressors will maximize and you will be able to perform better under pressure.
There isn’t one fix all to gaining a stronger mind or loving the assault bike but these tips can help you begin to recognize patterns and eventually change the way you approach not just cardio intensive movement but all aspects of fitness.
Do interval work (tabata, EMOM, :30 on/off, etc.) - this won't only build your stamina on the bike but more importantly, I want you to pay attention to what is going on inside your head as you begin to get into the middle sets that really begin to burn. Listen to what you are telling yourself. Are these negative thoughts? Are you telling yourself how much this sucks? Are you negotiating with yourself?
Practice positive self talk - physically challenge the way you think, alter the voice in your head. Instead of can’t, use can. Focus on the outcome and not what is happening in the moment. Say things like “just a little longer”, “I can do another 10 seconds”, “stay at this pace”, “I can do this”, “this is only temporary”, “I'm getting better from this”. Mind over matter.
Breathe - sometimes workouts become overwhelming and focusing on how much pain you are in becomes distracting. Take one deep breath through your nose and out your mouth to recenter yourself and clear your mind. This effectively brings you back to the task on hand and can allow you to crank out those last couple calories.
Attainable sets - this can be applied to all aspects of sport, especially high reps/sets. Pick something you know you can do. Maybe the workout has 50 calories. Instead of breaking it into 5 sets of 10 calories, tell yourself you are doing just 10 calories. Once you reach 10, tell yourself it wasnt so bad, and that you can do another 10. Continue this until you hit those 50 cals and time will pass a lot quicker than you expect.
A lot of things happen in life that are outside your control but how you respond to these difficulties makes all the difference. So I encourage you to test some of the strategies the next time you hop on the assault bike and see how you can effectively change the way you approach the machine. I mean, the assault bike is never going to get easier, so you might as well get better.
I sometimes watch this video to get psyched/remind myself about my own mindset:
Proper AB technique via Brent Fikowski: