1. Try new training methods – Successful athletes are always investigating and experimenting with new methods of training. Slight changes in your program may stimulate physiological systems in different ways, which help improve your overall racing fitness. For example, we all know that anaerobic threshold training is a very important ingredient to cycling success. Depending on your body type (e.g. muscle fiber makeup), performing more threshold repetitions of shorter duration (e.g. 5 x 6’) versus repetitions of longer duration (e.g. 2 x 15’) may allow your body to respond better to this type of workout.
2. Nutrition – An important aspect of your training program that is often overlooked. Ask five different athletes who have five different diets and they will all say they have proper nutrition. A simple solution to see if your nutritional program is helping or hindering you would be to visit a qualified exercise nutritionist and have a diet analysis done. This would help show any improvements that may be needed in your daily diet. You need not be in the same geographical area, as it can be done over the internet in most cases. A valuable first step is to log your complete dietary intake over 3 days (ideally two weekdays and a weekend) to track exactly what you actually put into your body – it may surprise you! It can also work as a self-regulating system, where the embarrassment of writing down that you ate a whole bag of Doritos keeps you from eating it in the first place!
3. Flexibility – Have you ever wondered why the pros can affect a bike position with the bars so long and low? Flexibility is so important to the cyclist. Most people associate flexibility with runners and injury prevention. Although this may or may not be true (studies go both ways), flexibility on the bike allows the body to relax more and apply needed power to the pedals with less muscle tension and in a more aerodynamic position. Plus, as we get older, our muscles lose their suppleness and having more flexibility results in an overall improved quality of life.
4. Coaching/Feedback –Coaching may or may not be a fit for you as an athlete. An alternative may be to get some periodic “consulting” on your planned program. Your training can be reviewed by an outside source that is qualified to analyze what you are doing and give you other training options to consider.
5. Practice patience - Meeting your target fitness level and achieving your goals takes time and does not happen overnight. Every athlete is different, starting their programs at different fitness levels and adapting to training at different rates. This is true not just over the course of a season but throughout your cycling career. A basic rule to remember is the longer it takes you to get fit, the longer you stay fit.
6. Maintain morale – Bicycle racing is a very difficult sport and becoming good takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice. Without good morale and motivation you will have a difficult season. Morale is the glue that holds it all together. There is no substitute for a motivated athlete who approaches their season with an optimistic outlook and a plan to attain their goals.
7. Single minded – Quite simply, you must do what is right for you and not necessarily what other athletes are doing. Each athlete is unique with different goals, strengths, and weaknesses. Being single-minded is not to be confused with being “selfish.” It’s believing in your program, knowing you are on the right track and sometimes going against the flow of conventional training techniques that are so often espoused in popular books.
8. Record everything - Whether things are going good or bad, record detailed notes and upload all power and heart rate data. It’s important to have records of your training to use for comparison purposes daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. It can also be useful to diagnose fatigue and important just to see the things that got you to a peak of fitness where you had your greatest success.
9. Perspective – Most of us train and race bikes as a hobby and for the love of the sport. Just remember the big picture – that your cycling is a hobby. When things are going good or bad, keep perspective about the big picture. Try to minimize the rollercoaster effect of emotions and stay level-headed in training, racing and life!
10. And the final resolution: Read Toolbox every week!
Being a successful athlete requires a lot of attention to the complete training picture. It has and always will continue to be the little things that make you a better bike racer. Thanks for reading – ride safe, ride strong and have a happy new year.
Bruce Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at www.athleticamps.com