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Cyclist - - Italy - Words SUSANNAH OSBORNE Pho­tog­ra­phy DANNY BIRD

ind­ful­ness is not new, but in 2016 you’re more likely to know some­one who ac­tu­ally in­cor­po­rates the prac­tice into their life than, say, 10 years ago. It’s a med­i­ta­tive tech­nique that in­volves fo­cus­ing on the present mo­ment, and the con­cept re­ally took off in 2012 with the ar­rival of the hugely suc­cess­ful mind­ful­ness app Headspace, a 10-minute online rou­tine prac­tised by an es­ti­mated six mil­lion peo­ple world­wide. Loved by celebs and stressed-out ex­ecs alike, it’s a phe­nom­e­non that has made its Bri­tish, Bud­dhist monk creator Andy Pud­di­combe a multi-mil­lion­aire.

It may be tempt­ing to dis­miss mind­ful­ness as hippy clap­trap, but there’s ev­i­dence that it not only helps make you feel less stressed, but could ac­tu­ally im­prove per­for­mance on the bike. That’s why I de­cided to put my nat­u­ral cyn­i­cism to one side and see if I could use mind­ful tech­niques to get faster.

Be­fore rush­ing off to buy an orange robe and some grown-up colour­ing books, though, I thought it would be use­ful to un­der­stand a bit more about the prin­ci­ples in­volved.

Pro­fes­sor Mark Wil­liams, emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor of clin­i­cal psy­chol­ogy at Ox­ford Univer­sity and former direc­tor of the Ox­ford Mind­ful­ness Cen­tre, says that mind­ful­ness means know­ing di­rectly what is go­ing on inside and out­side our­selves, mo­ment by mo­ment.

‘It’s easy to stop notic­ing the world around us,’ Wil­liams says. ‘It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bod­ies are feel­ing and to end up liv­ing “in our heads” – caught up in our thoughts with­out stop­ping to no­tice how those thoughts are driv­ing our emo­tions and be­hav­iour.’

For cy­clists this can be in­ter­preted in myr­iad ways, from notic­ing how your feet feel when you’re ped­alling, to the heav­i­ness

Mind­ful­ness is not just about colour­ing books. By be­ing more aware of your body and en­vi­ron­ment, you could be­come a bet­ter rider

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