The other day I was out with my 13 year old son. We decided to go on a bike ride.
It was a grey day but didn't look like we were going to become the victims of a downpour so we headed off on a cross country trip from Scarborough to Bridlington along the National Cycle Route 1.
I have been out on that route a couple of days before so I know that the terrain was moderate to easy with the exception of one particular 18% climb about 5 miles into the journey.
I knew two things about how this trip would go before I started. First, was that my son would convince himself that the hill would be impossible to ascend without getting off and pushing the bike to the top. Second, was that if I didn't stay behind him and encourage him he would almost certainly give up and get off within a few yards.
In foreknowledge of these two things I decided to strategise about how we could do the journey and how I would encourage my son to complete it and get the satisfaction that this would bring.
Normally, I would deliberately avoid telling him about any aspects of the ride which would put him off. I would just wait until we came to that point and experience the consequences. This time I decided to see this as an opportunity to coach him and help him to see the possibility in the experience and the potential rewards of completing it without giving in.
On the easy run up to the hill we were talking and I somehow got onto the subject of NID or Negative Internal Dialogue. I explained to him that we talk to ourselves and that the default for each of us is talk that stops us from acheiving our very best. I continued by explaining that a victory over this Negaitive Internal Dialogue would help him with every aspect of his life from school to sports to the hill we were about to climb.
His first comment was 'I'll never remember what NID stands for!'. 'There you go' I said, 'an example of how your own Negative Internal Dialogue' has created the words that came effortlessly out of your mouth. 'Oh Yeh' he replied.
When we could see the hill in the distance I pointed it out and said 'that's the hill we are going up, it's a great view from the top'. Of course from 1.5 miles away the hill looked somewhat less menacing than from the start of the climb.
For the next mile I rode behind him coaching him on how to use his gears to conserve energy and how to make sure that he was in the right gear for the terrain.
As the hill climb grew closer and closer I encouraged him around the whole area of dealing for Negative Internal Dialogue so that he would be as ready as possible to meet his challenge.
Sure enough, the inevitable came along and we got to the foot of the hill. I reminded him of the practical steps of pace and gearing and then reinforced our NID discussion by explaining that he would have to deal with it but that I would be right behind him encouraging him. Within a few seconds we startup up the hill, the puffing and the panting started. I stayed right behind his rear wheel so that he would be able to hear my own breathing and realise that this wasn't just something he would find a challenge.