5 leadership lessons I learned from endurance cycling

The current focus on the Olympics has many of us searching for our inner athlete! In my mid-20s, endurance cycling (Audax) was my exercise of choice.

The first time I did a 600-km ride (max time 40 hours), I realised that endurance sport is much more about fitness and focus of the mind than it is about athleticism of the body! (Here’s an old pic of me – much younger than now – when I first started cycling.)

Here’s the five things I learned from endurance cycling that I still apply to leadership today:

  1. The mind as a potent force for good. If your mind says you can, then you’ve got much greater hope. My lowest point on this first 600 km ride was around the 550km mark. It was morning and I was completely exhausted. Fighting to keep down the small amount of breakfast I had forced myself to eat, I focused just on each turn of the pedals… Left.. Right… Left… Telling myself I COULD do it!
  2. Surround yourself with good people. When you are cycling through the night, it’s important to have people around you who believe in you, who will keep your spirits up and not drag you down, people who share your commitment to achieve the goal.
  3. The power of visualization (AND the importance of backing up imagery with actions). Whenever my spirits flagged and I thought I wasn’t going to make it, I imagined myself crossing the line at the end. That kept me going.
  4. Big games start small. I first heard about Audax from a guy training to do a 200km ride. At that time, I couldn’t believe any ‘normal’ person could ride 200km in one go!
  5. Confidence is transferable from one context to another. For the next year or so, anytime I thought I couldn’t do anything (personal, work, exercise – anything) I remembered that if I could cycle 600 kms in 36 hours, I could do anything!

The extent of my cycling now is a 5km jaunt with my two young daughters, and yet the lessons have stayed with me.

The most valuable lesson for me was the potency of the mind. How about you?

Go fearlessly