Training and anxiety

Hey all!

I was searching through the forum and saw tons of useful info on how to generally deal with anxiety, but I’m wondering what are some things I could do to deal with it during rides? I had a panic attack back in December and have been trying to find my way back to normal. I tried a couple different medications over a few months, but felt like they were making the issue worse, so I’m not currently taking anything. I typically mountain bike quite a bit and find that while I’m “locked in” I’m ok. But at high intensity, if I fall out of that zone, anxiety starts creeping in and eventually I have to back off the pace and just get back to the car. Indoor rides are especially tough since there’s not really anything to focus on other than the way I’m feeling, and even a zone 2 ride can lead to me feeling anxious and just getting off the bike after a hour or hour and a half. Any tips for this? I just want to ride my bike lol.

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Interesting, is there something you think about with workouts that makes you feel anxious?
For example are you worried about something while riding? I’m definitely not a doctor but how is the rest of your life? Is work stressful? Do you ever get anxiety when you’re not training?
I get anxiety when thinking about certain situations going on in my life. I will say its more a feeling of worry and wonder with a lot of what ifs?
Not to sound corny but meditation and accepting the present moment has helped me a lot. Breathing techniques that go with the meditation to be specific.
Some things are out of my control and even if it sucks I need to focus on the controllables.
Those are some of my questions and thoughts, it’s okay to not be okay. I just wonder if you have a lot going on outside of riding that’s causing these feelings.

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Not anything specifically that I’m thinking about. I think it’s more the way my body feels while riding can mimic anxiety. High heart rate, shortness of breath, etc. I obviously know what it’s being caused by, but my brain doesn’t really seem to care and starts to panic.

I find long term plans and goals help me massively. Little wins in life, getting a bit faster and fitter, fulfilment. Brings my shields up. Meeting strangers having fun.

Are you anxious as you feel you should be doing something else ? I do from time to time feel like I’m a bad dad if im out on my bike for example. Remember, things are often temporary. Doctor once said to me wear the thought out, you get used to what is worrying you and soon learn to forget it.

Its normal. you’re human.

You need to use some common sense outside on trails with this, but have you tried music? I find it easier to get into the zone with the right kind of music. And for other distractions other than music, like TV, movies, etc, I eventually lose focus with those, but not with music.

Focus on deep breathing. Tell yourself that you know it’s just irrational thoughts that are causing the panic, and remind yourself that you don’t have any history of passing out or having heart attack issues. Might help you to stop and sit down for a minute (and breathe and tell yourself you’re ok) or walk the bike for a minute… might make it worse, though. At least slow down to focus on what you’re doing and catch your breath.

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If this is what you want to do then just do that, forget about doing structured training, just ride

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I think that you need to deal with the general causes of your anxiety, then training will not be affected by it.

Distraction works well with anxiety in my opinion, but it’s not a cure. So talk with people you are riding with, and watch engaging shows or movies when training indoors.

I can’t say I’ve found training has helped anxiety, other than the general benefits training brings. When I’m suffering from anxiety the will to train evaporates and I abandon rides early.

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Do you have any idea where this anxiety is coming from?
One quick story:
I had a bad crash a few years ago on a DH bike (concussion, stitches, broken teeth) and since that event, I’m scared in descents. I also had 50mm deep wheels fitted on the bike that were scary because of crosswinds. So I ditched the wheels for a lower profile (35mm) and bought a gravel bike. Riding scary stuff on the gravel bike helped me a ton with my skills and while I’m far to be as skilled as some other riders, I’m not so scared anymore and I enjoy descending.
Apart from that, therapy, journaling, meditation and deep breathing help a lot as a daily activity.

I’m a fairly long term TrainerRoad user who is just, after about a year, starting to see the light at the end of the panic disorder tunnel.

One day last summer I was out with friends and, seemingly out of nowhere, was hit with my first, huge, panic attack. The panic disorder spiral that followed left me unable to cycle, fly or even walk small distances from the house at one point. Before this I had never been what you’d consider a nervous man. The brain can do wild things.

Getting back on the bike was really important to me, but it was hard. What has helped me for cycling, and everything else -

  • If you’re not doing so already, educate yourself on panic disorder. I found the Disordered podcast, and books by one or the hosts, one of the most valuable resource for me. This episode is about exercise anxiety specifically, Exercise, Gym, and Exertion Anxiety (Episode 41), but I’d really advise listening to all the general info as well - Understanding what was going on in my brain, the fear of fear, etc. benefited me hugely

  • Take care of yourself off the bike. Work and life change stress were the main factors for me that led to the disorder - Nothing negative was happening, but low level stress built up over time to boiling point. Take time to relax and step back, prioritise yourself. Mindfulness, meditation, walks, reading, etc.

  • Be compassionate to yourself, don’t beat yourself up when you need to get back in the car but be proud you managed to do what you did. This shift was very hard for me but hugely beneficial.

  • Do relaxed, easy rides outside if possible. I had to build up to these by forcing myself through sheer fear even on little Z2 spins, but when I got to the point of being able to slowly ride around outside and enjoy nature I stopped associating cycling with anxiety so much, stopped self monitoring all the time, etc. and it built up my confidence again on the bike, as well as helped relaxation, etc. I’m now able to ride inside and outside again, although not quite fully recovered yet

  • Talk to a therapist, either local or online… I found this really helpful, for the therapy itself but also to educate myself, accountability around challenging myself, exposures, etc.

  • CBT techniques to tackle negative thinking

  • For cycling, I was particularly concerned about having a heart attack due to family history of early death of athletic father due to undiagnosed condition (~20 years ago). Seeing a cardiologist and confirming all was OK gave me a good foundation to start fighting the irrational thoughts from

  • Understanding anxiety as a whole with the same root cause, not individual things I was anxious about really helped - Being less anxious and more relaxed in life will help you cycle again

Anxiety is horrible, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, but you’ll get there, it’s fortunately very treatable, with and without medication! Be patient and kind to yourself.

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my friend is a PA specializing in neuro-endocrine, and deals with a lot of cases other MDs can’t figure out. for patients with anxiety or panic attacks, she has them mix 1 tsp vegetable glycerin, 1 packet Emergen-C in 8-12 oz water and drink 20-30 min before activity (ie flying, test taking, exercise). I do it before races bc I have some vocal cord dysfunction that sometimes causes breathing issues and it helps

Thanks for posting about this :two_hearts:

I’m no expert but whenever I get moments of anxiety I do breathing exercises, as it’s been recommended by others already :slight_smile:

It may be worth looking into breathing techniques you can apply daily to stimulate the vagus nerve which help stabilize the nervous system on the long run and potentially reduce the panic attacks.

If you do a quick search on Google you can find examples of breathing exercises. Even Garmin has them available on their devices as “Breathwork”!

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I would quit training and just enjoy riding your bike.

I hate being out of control downhill on a bike and whilst I have never suffered an anxiety attack I suspect that I back off way before they’d be triggered in my mind. Whilst I was never the most confident downhills a chronic iron shortage saw we worse and then I was paranoid of breaking a bone during chemo. Indoors though I’m 100% in control and I don’t feel anxious at all and in my (admittedly unqualified) opinion I don’t think you should be either. However indoors if you aren’t finding the pain (albeit type 2 fun) of training to be a big enough distraction for your thoughts perhaps you could try music or some other form of social media. For endurance based trainer rides when training is less of a distraction for my thoughts I’ve ridden virtual courses or overlaid the workout on a webcast (race) or podcast.

I had something similar a few years ago. Zone 2 rides made me out of breath… couldn’t complete workouts. Went down the same path, blood work, medications, etc. In the end it ended up being just stress and taking care of myself. My personal life at the time and my pressure on myself to get in training at the volumes I thought I should be doing just didn’t work for me. Key sign for me was feeling ‘chest tightness’ or just short of breath and knowing I needed to do something to relax or take a day off. Sleep, stress management, listening to your body are key. I’ve made changes to my riding schedule and some personal life things and its made a big difference. However, my body does not respond well to large training volumes well and its something I’ve had to respect.

Hey! I read your story and I can 100% relate - been suffering from panic attacks and anxiety bigger part of my life. I had periods of almost panic free life (albeit not stress free) when I thought I’ve beaten it and I had periods of some really dark stuff going on.

What others mentioned here works well for me: mindfulness/meditation, therapy, better sleep, stress management and so on.

If I had to pick one, it would be mindfulness 100% - learning to better identify that my mind is, once again, ridden with anxious thoughts and feelings and identifying them as something that is not really a part of “me” helped a lot. Over the years I came to understand that anxious thoughts is not something I want to think or something I myself start thinking of, it’s just something that pops up and then it’s easy to get dragged into the spiraling abyss where I start identifying with these thoughts and feelings. In reality these are not mine, it’s just some noise that came from my brain. I’ve gotten so much better at catching myself right when I start spiraling and reminding myself that this is not me, I’m right here, right now, these thoughts are something that might happen but never does happen.

Of course, I had to work on that for a long time and I’m still not fully cured, but I see light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel. And, of course, I had SOOOO many tests done to be completely sure that my heart and cardiovascular system is fine – cardiologists, general practitioners, neurologists, I even paid for a VO2 max test at a sports health center where they measured not only my HR and the gas concentration of my breath but also a full ECG and blood pressure while I was dying on that bike. Turns out my body is fine, I just sometimes get trapped into thinking that it’s not fine.

Don’t get trapped into following random thoughts that pop into your head - these are not you - you are you, and you just want to ride your bike.

Stay safe, you’ll get there! I promise :purple_heart:

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