The Importance of PMA

I first saw the acronym PMA on Cap City Cyclocross’s Web Site when I was looking for races to put on my schedule.  Here is how they describe PMA:

Positive Mental Attitude. Racing is hard. Winning is great. Having fun is even better. We’ve all been there; the post race blues due to a mechanical, fatigue or lack of fitness. While we 100% believe that racing is fun and competition is great, walking away with a positive experience is as much on the racer as it is the race director.

I always thought that it was maybe a little corny, but they were trying to keep the series fun and not super serious, but what if PMA is the key to reaching a higher level of performance?  What if the best way to win is PMA?  That’s exactly what the science is saying.

Endure by Alex HutchinsonEndure by Alex Hutchinson is a new best seller about how the mind regulates the body, and it is PMA that allows athletes to go beyond their limits.

We’ve all heard those stories of people lifting cars to free their trapped child or pro athletes playing through a broken bone.  We know from the 40% rule that when the mind is saying “we’re done, that’s all we got”, we’re only about 40% done and the mind is holding back the reserves in case we need to sprint away from a lion or bear.

The key to getting more from the brain than that 40% is to convince it, through PMA, that we’re not really working that hard.  When you’re at the end of a long race and your mind is telling you that you’re just cooked and you got nothing left, smile and tell your mind “we got this!”.  You are only 40% cooked and yes, you can do a finishing sprint.

We see the high performing athletes around us, and usually they have a PMA about them.  They seem to be having fun and smiling even though they’re legs are screaming and they are suffering through a tough race.

Before the race starts, if you’re feeling nervous, that’s good.  Turn that nervousness to excitement, smile, and channel it to PMA.  Tell yourself you can do so much more than what your brain allows.


What If You Didn’t Need a Rest Day?

A lot of endurance athletes want to train as often as they can so that they can get as fit as they can, but we all know that STRESS + REST = GROWTH.  That REST part of the equation is the toughest part for some athletes because they just want to train all the time.

Let’s look at that equation for a second.  The STRESS part is easy, when you put stress on your muscles by riding and training, you are breaking down the muscles with micro-tears, and the body needs time to repair.

The REST part is simply removing all STRESS so that the body can focus on the rebuilding process.  Limit all work the body has to do so that it can focus on the rebuilding process.

Here are some tips to maximize REST and RECOVERY as a lifestyle so that dedicating an entire day to it might be unnecessary.

De-Stress Your Mind

Today everything is fast-paced and everyone is in a hurry.  We’re sitting in rush-hour traffic and yelling at the other drivers so that we can get to work and rush to meet a deadline so the boss doesn’t yell at us.  Then we get home and argue with our kids and spouses.  Life is too stressful and this has an affect on us.  It takes away from our recovery.  It causes us to be in a constant fight or flight situation that prevents the full relaxation we are looking for.

I’m not going to tell you how to fix all of these things, that’s for each of us to figure out for ourselves.  Each of us has a unique situation that we need to handle in our own way.  The stress of our modern high-pressure world is taking away from our recovery, and we need to tune that down a little at a time.

Sleep Better

De-stress completely before bed.  Eliminate distractions.  Try to stay calm in the hour leading up to bed time.  Go to bed earlier, get 9 hours of sleep if possible.


Eat and drink things that have a low impact on your digestive system.  When you’re in deep recovery, you don’t want to eat a Thanksgiving dinner and force your entire body to focus on digesting a big meal, right?  Do the opposite.  Eat small meals.  Have a protein smoothie.  Chop up the food so that it’s simple to digest.

Athletes need energy and protein to recover.  Eat foods high in nutrients.  Avoid processed foods.  Limit alcohol.  Alcohol stresses the body.  The liver has to stop what it is doing so that it can filter the alcohol from the blood.  Alcohol can de-hydrate the body.  Drink Green Tea instead.

Read this book: Thrive, 10th Anniversary Edition: The Plant-Based Whole Foods Way to Staying Healthy for Life by Brendan Brazier.  It’s been a game changer for me on this subject.

Active Recovery

Spending the entire day on the sofa is not possible for a lot of people, or even ideal.  We need to keep the blood flowing so that the body can get those toxins out.

Go for a walk or a hike, do some light yoga, do some stretching, go for a swim, go for an easy bike ride with the family.  The idea is to be active without stressing your aerobic system or your muscles.


Try a massage.  Relaxation massages are good to just de-stress from everything and relax.  Sports massages are another option for people with stubborn muscles or injuries that won’t seem to go away.

You can try self massage.  Here’s a good article for that:


There are apps that can help with this.  I used Headspace for a month, and I learned some meditation techniques that I use from time to time.  Just taking some time out of the day to focus on yourself might be a big step toward relaxation for a lot of people.  Being mindful of the body and listening to what it’s saying can help us know what it needs from us.  Meditation helps to be more in-tune with the body.

Recovery Systems/Devices

There are a lot of devices that want people to spend a lot of money for recovery.  There’s recovery sleepwear, recovery leg compression sleeves, and other things that cost a lot and promise recovery.  Some of them may work great, but the cheap and free things on this list will work better.  Humans have been around for a long time without technology, and we respond best to the simple things.  Don’t depend on the gadgets, but if you want to use them to help, then that’s great.

One device that everyone seems to agree works is the foam roller.  It’s a good way to get a deep tissue massage for cheap.


You don’t have to spend a lot of money.  Lower the stress in your life, meditate, foam roll your sore muscles, eat right and drink a smoothie.

Do you have to do all of these everyday?  No, do what works for you.  Think about recovery every day.  Build recovery into your daily routine, and maybe you can workout more and get stronger.  Always listen to your body and when it’s feeling run-down, maybe sometimes you will need to take a whole day off from workouts!

What’s Your Limiter?

From Friel’s Tri Training Bible, pg. 80

For each statement mark A for agree or D for disagree.

  1. I ride with a slow cadence
  2. I enjoy high-volume training weeks
  3. I prefer short races
  4. I consider my cadence short and quick
  5. As the bike intervals get shorter and quicker, I do better than most of my training partners
  6. I have always been better at short, fast workouts than at long endurance workouts
  7. I’m stronger than my training partners at the end of long workouts
  8. I finish long workouts stronger than most of my training partners
  9. I’m stronger in the weight room than most other athletes my size
  10. I’m more muscular than most cyclists my age and sex
  11. I prefer long rides to short ones
  12. My leg strength is quite good
  13. I bike uphill better than most in my age group
  14. I consider my technique to be very good
  15. I’m confident of my endurance at the start of a long workout


Count the number of Agrees

#1,5,7,12,13: _____ Muscular Force
#2,3,9,10,14: _____ Speed Skills
#4,6,8,11,15: _____ Aerobic Endurance

A low score of 0 or 1 is a limiter. A 4 or 5 is a strength.

Let me know what your limiter is… I might have a way to turn that into a strength!

Three Tips for Endurance Success

80/20 Rule

80% of the time, go easy…. easy enough so you can exercise and talk at the same time.  The other 20% go hard.. really hard.  Push the envelope and stress yourself.  Then give yourself enough rest afterwards.

The easiest way to hit a plateau as an athlete is to go too hard to build your efficient all-day engine, but not hard enough to really stress yourself.

Create habits

Make training a habit.  Make healthy diet a habit.  Don’t get caught up in getting to the finish line.  It’s going to take time and patience.  Just keep doing the right things and the process will pay off.  Doing the rights things for one day makes no difference, but doing one right thing for 100 days makes a big difference.  Start slow and build up yourself over time.

Peak for your “A” events

Don’t try to do your best at 12 races per year.  You can’t peak that often.  You will need breaks and rest after big efforts.  Focus on two or three “A” events or races per year.  Space these out a bit.  Use Base, Build, Peak, and Race training phases to peak at these “A” events and really try to do your absolute best.  For “B” races, treat those as a good effort, but know you won’t be peaking for these and probably won’t have an “A” level performance.  “C” races are basically the same as a hard workout.  Those should be local and fun.

It’s probably better to not do too many races other than your “A” races.  Use “B” races in your build phase and use those to work on your weaknesses.