Pedaling past the unseen challenges of elite cycling
Our Director of Business Development, Giana Chilcott, has proudly represented the United States on the international stage, participating in numerous events, including the World Championships. She boasts a remarkable resume as a former World Champion, National Champion, and esteemed member of the International Cycling Hall of Fame. When asked about the challenges of mental health within the elite cycling community, her insights are deeply rooted in personal experience. Below is her perspective.
"Crashing is, inevitably, a part of the sport of cycling. Most sports have a side that is inevitable - and can be painful. The fear of the what if can hamper results, even if a PR is in your sites, fear can eat at your confidence, making for nervous, and anxiety created mistakes which, ironically, can often cause the accident you were fearing.Crashing is, inevitably, a part of the sport of cycling. Most sports have a side that is inevitable - and that can be painful. The fear of the “what if” can hamper results. Even if a PR is in your sights (and not a World Championship Medal), fear can eat at your confidence, making for nervous and anxiety-created mistakes, which, ironically, can often cause the set-up for the accident you were fearing.
Learning how to manage that fear, and how to overcome the anxiety of things that are out of your control, is the key to success in sport. Learning to arrive at a place where confidence in yourself as an athlete overcomes doubts, and your ability to accept the possibility of failure is a tool in your arsenal to success. Understanding your inner workings as an athlete: what motivates you, what is positive input, and what mitigates negative self speak, are other crucial facets to training. KAT helped me understand my motives to be an over-achieving, perpetually unsatisfied athlete; it helped me arrive at a place of peace - which increased my ability to push myself to high levels of achievement. KAT helped me learn to sit with the discomfort of having things out of my control and not allow that to become a stumbling block to success.
Long days on the road by myself, always pushing for more out of my body, left my psyche depleted. It made me guarded, further ensconced in isolation. KAT helped me restore my wholeness, it opened up my heart, and helped me smile again. I was able to focus on other things than the achievement of the next goal -which led me to better trust the process, and the journey of becoming a better athlete.
I felt broken many times during my career - mentally and physically. Now after KAT I feel whole. Not only is my physical pain less, but my peace of mind is pure and unencumbered by the anxiety of failure, loneliness and the fear of the 'what if'."
Thank you, Giana for sharing!
What factors can negatively impact the mental health of cyclists?
- Fear of crashes
- Dealing with the aftermath of a crash
- Pressure to deliver strong performances and results
- Coping with bad days
- Isolation resulting from intense training
- Striving to meet appearance expectations, especially given the importance of the strength-to-weight ratio
- Facing situations beyond one's control, such as the actions of others on their bikes leading to potential crashes and subsequent overreactions
- Trusting teammates in a sport where only one person wins, despite the collective effort required to put the lead rider on the podium, often leading to unacknowledged sacrifices by teammates.
PTSD from injuries
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among cyclists is a significant concern often stemming from traumatic incidents such as accidents during training or competitions. These occurrences can deeply affect the mental and emotional well-being of cyclists. The sudden and unexpected nature of these accidents can instill a profound sense of fear and anxiety, leading to recurring flashbacks, nightmares, and an intense, persistent avoidance of situations that trigger memories of the incident. This response can be particularly challenging for cyclists, as they rely on their bikes and must trust their teammates, fellow cyclists and equipment.
While physical injuries may heal over time, the psychological scars can persist, affecting the cyclist's performance and their willingness to return to the sport. The path to recovery involves not only addressing the physical injuries but also providing psychological support and therapy to help cyclists overcome their fears and rebuild their confidence. This journey demands patience, understanding, and a supportive environment, both within and outside the cycling community.
The risk of isolation
Engaging in cycling training can often be a solo pursuit, involving extended practice sessions away from fellow cyclists and supporters. This solitude can trigger feelings of loneliness and may amplify mental health concerns, such as depression, particularly when cyclists are away from their usual environments for competitions or training camps.
Coping with setbacks
Injuries can be a significant source of emotional distress for athlete cyclists. The recovery process is often lengthy and challenging, resulting in frustration and a feeling of loss of identity when the athlete is unable to ride.
Do not lose hope!
Innovative treatment options at Be the Change in Mental Health offer a path to healing that has been proven to be effective and long-lasting.
Listen to Giana, an elite cyclist, as she shares her firsthand account of the cathartic impact of Ketamine-assisted Therapy in her life
Our non-profit organization, Be the Change in Mental Health, is dedicated to providing innovative and top-tier therapy solutions specifically designed to meet the unique needs of elite cyclists and athletes. By prioritizing mental well-being, our programs aim to not only enhance the quality of their lives but also elevate their performance in their respective sports. We firmly believe that a healthy mind is the key to unlocking their full potential and achieving success both on and off the track.
"This has been hands down one of the most prolific experiences of my life. I can't even begin to express how grateful to have been given the opportunity to experience this medicine."
"Be the Change in Mental Health is an exceptional facility that provides transformative services. The welcoming atmosphere and empathetic, skilled staff create a safe space for healing. Their unique approach, especially with Ketamine-assisted Psychotherapy, serves as a catalyst for deep mental and emotional growth."
Strategies for mental wellness
Recognizing the importance of mental health in the cycling community, there are innovative treatment options that can help.
- Approved by the FDA, known for its stringent regulations, Ketamine has been used in anesthesia since 1970.
- Widely recognized in the medical community, Ketamine is a staple for physicians, emergency responders, and military medics, particularly for its dissociative properties.
- The innovative combination of Ketamine and psychotherapy is gaining attention.
- Early 2000s studies highlighted Ketamine's potential as an antidepressant, leading to its "off-label" use for various mental health conditions. While this use is "off-label," it remains fully legal under medical guidance.
- Evidence-based medical research supports a remarkable 80% success rate of Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP) in treating mental disorders like treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and others.
- Utilizing Ketamine's impact on neuroplasticity can facilitate a harmonious integration of past traumas and present mental state, offering a path to healing and well-being.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
- TMS is a non-invasive brain stimulation technique. At our facility, we provide NeuroStar® TMS, an advanced therapy that employs focused magnetic pulses to activate specific brain regions typically underactive in individuals with depression.
- NeuroStar Advanced Therapy for Mental Health is an FDA-approved, drug-free, and non-invasive treatment option, designed to offer sustained relief from depression symptoms.
At BTC, we are dedicated to supporting the mental health of cyclists and performence athletes. Our team is prepared to extend a helping hand and assist you in embarking on your path toward genuine mental healing, allowing you to fully embrace a happy and fulfilling life.