What can Seinfeld teach us about bike racing?
I do not try to hide it, I am a big Seinfeld fan. It seems that every episode has some parody of life that you can easily apply to bike racing, as well as many other areas of life. One specific show, called “The Opposite” sets up a situation where nothing is really working for George. Same job, same life, same everything! He decides to do the opposite of every instinct that he has. As Jerry puts it, “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”
I think this approach can be beneficial for many athletes when they are in the middle of a bike race. Most race to not fail, they are conservative and don’t really apply themselves. Contrast that to your local group rides where everyone seems to be more aggressive, attacking, fearless, etc. I mean seriously, what do you have to lose?
I would rather see my athlete’s “fail” by being aggressive and helping to shape and determine the outcome of the race, versus just sitting there and thinking about what not to do. So basically, whatever your instinct is telling you to do, just do the opposite and see where it takes you!
What we learn from our development program
We are fortunate to be working with an incredible group of under-23 and junior level riders. The program takes a bit of a different approach in that we currently don’t have a team, but work with riders who want to take their fitness and skills to the next level away from the team environment. We work closely with the teams and parents, but mainly focus on long-term individual development. Our training center serves as a location for them to get all the tools they need to be successful in both bike racing and life. The results are showing and we are proud of them, as they set an example for all levels and ages of athletes.
So what do we learn from them? Simple really. We teach and learn that every one of them develops at a different rate. I know that sounds simple and obvious, but in today’s world, that patience is not always appreciated (see below). And not only do they learn from our staff, when given the opportunity, they learn a great deal from each other, helping each others learn the discipline and dedication it takes to be successful. It’s the same as any of the other major sports like baseball, football, etc. It’s just that in cycling; there are not as many opportunities for that type of environment.
As we observe them we also learn another important aspect of the sport that should be appreciated by every level of rider. And that is how much fun they have riding their bikes and training with their best friends. Every rider should take a lesson from them and forget the power meter periodically, not be so intense and serious and go back to being a kid and why you love to ride your bike to begin with!
A lot of being successful in your training depends on knowing when to train hard and when to back off. It’s knowing when to apply the gas pedal and when to let it go. We often have great discussions about what workouts to do and when, always talking about how a rider feels. There is no question that our bodies go in cycles of feeling good and not feeling so good. They seem to define themselves more as we get older. It’s important to recognize those times and take advantage of the training opportunity or not try to push it. It takes a patient and mature athlete to do this. It’s an old cliché, but learn to “listen to your body.” Trust me, it will take you far!
This stuff takes time
We’ve written about it time and time again, but this important topic is always worth revisiting. It’s human nature to want instant results. We are a society of instant gratification and are not super patient. Improving on the bike and, more importantly, in bike racing takes time and experience.
There is no magic workout, there is no one supplement, and there is no specific tactic.
What it takes is time and self-awareness. It’s requires a program that is objective and balanced in its approach. It’s knowing where you are in the big picture, being realistic, and working hard every day. It’s about taking a professional approach even if you are not a professional.
From showing up every day with a clean bike to being a true sportsman and respecting your competition. About staying on course and not changing your training approach every time something isn’t working or you feel you need more “motivation.” Your performance is a direct result of your habits and your willingness to work for the long-term.
Too many athletes are like sailboats without rudders, changing direction every time someone tells them something new. It’s about a complete, focused, well-balanced program OVER TIME.
Ride safe, ride strong,
Bruce Hendler is a USA Cycling Coach and owner of AthletiCamps in Northern California. For the past 11 years, he and his experienced team have helped athletes of all levels achieve their goals in the great sport of bike racing thru cycling training camps, cycling coaching and performance testing. To contact AthletiCamps, visit their website at www.athleticamps.com or follow them on Twitter.