Training Intel

Birdies and Sprints

How my experience in golf informs my riding

Written by Kyle J. Cassas, MD, team physician and Primary Care Sports Medicine Specialist with the Greenville Health System and Steadman Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas

I heard a recent podcast from my friend and colleague Milt Lowder PH.D. with Synergy Performance in Greenville, SC, that I found enlightening and informative. In this podcast, his partner Cory Shaffer, PH.D., CC-AASP spoke about his time at the 2018 Masters Golf Tournament working with professional golfers in one of the most pressure-packed tournaments of the year. It reminded me about my time with the team, and I realized the similarities between these two sports in how we practice, train, rest, recover, and seek to maximize our performance. Below are a few tips that I picked up from golf that also carry over well into cycling.

Train with a Purpose

Too often we just start our day without a specific plan or really even a purpose. I may go to the driving range and just hit balls without even thinking about what I am doing or why I am out there. My best practice sessions are those in which I have a specific plan and purpose for what I want to accomplish that day. Similarly, cyclists should always train with a purpose, understanding their goals and mapping out a plan to accomplish those goals.

Have Faith in Your Training

When golfing, I try to remember that my training has set me up for this moment. Therefore, I should focus on the present. If I get upset about a bad shot, I must immediately let that go and prepare for the next shot. All great golfers rely on this ability to stay in the moment and trust in their training.

Like golf, cycling is a mental sport. You must train and trust yourself in order to compete and succeed at the highest level. Proper preparation will reduce uncertainty and anxiety when you need to compete at the highest level.

Do What You Do

In golf it is easy to get caught up in what the other player and competitor is doing, and this takes away from what I need to do to focus on the shot. I can’t compare myself to how far they hit the ball or how well they putt. I need to remember that it is me against the golf course.

Similarly, in cycling, you should only focus on what you can control—not the magnitude of the situation. I saw this play out when traveling with the team to Amgen Tour of California. They competed against some of the best riders in the world, but they weren’t nervous. They said, “We got this.” They believed in themselves, and they knew their capabilities.

Rest and Recover as Hard as You Train

Disengage and disconnect to allow your parasympathetic and recovery systems to work. If you are always “on,” the body is using its sympathetic nervous system and activating a stress response, hampering your recovery and training. Remember to put the phones away during your recovery massage and also at night to allow for proper sleep.