“Come on legs you can make this next light...is that all you have...there’s no way he/she turned that without help…why can’t I hit that HR/Wattage?”
We all have all experienced this inner dialogue at some point in our rides or training, and for some riders, unfortunately, this inner voice is more of a familiar friend than a “one-ride-stand”. The launch of social media for cyclists is furthering a virus that is not new to cycling circles, but is expanding its creation of mediocrity (i.e. plateau in fitness). Symptoms include chronic group ride racing, majority of rides becoming upper tempo/threshold workouts, constantly feeling the need to make your presence known in your own cycling circles and, my favorite, pulling out mid pace-line to assume the front at break neck speed only to fade while looking back for signs of approval from your peers. This vicious cycle continues when the rider’s inner dialogue states, “I need to train more and harder," when in fact it should be saying, “I need to train smarter and recover more”. The older you get the more important it becomes to be in tune with this inner dialogue and question even yourself at times. In addition ask your coach or a more experienced rider for a non-bias objective perspective. No one is immune and every rider has experienced it; the difference is some don’t get a vaccine.
With all that said, I’m not opposed to the usage of social media to track rides and check out your friends and/or favorite pro’s latest metrics, but be weary of the symptoms above IF you have goals as a cyclist beyond that of being a social rider and dream of your own personal “win” (however you define it).
It can be said that the difference between an athlete and an enthusiast is SPECEFICITY. If one were to define it further, it’s knowing WHAT, WHEN, and WHY you are training how you’re training. On a daily, monthly, or yearly perspective all the while maintaining the ability to have patience and listen to your body in the process. It’s easy to ride hard; it’s more difficult to control your inner competitive drive (especially in the off-season or base phase of training) in an effort to go harder when you need to the most. If you take a look at the typical cyclists periodized training schedule, the aerobic phase (long/slow- aka: base) needs to be built before the anaerobic phase (intense structured intervals- aka: build/peak) can begin. The trouble with a lot of beginning cyclists, racers or enthusiasts alike, is patience and lack thereof. This is to say that they want instant validation and/or benchmarking, which is allotted with social media and fostered in our “want it, get it, got it” society. However, beginning cyclists seeking to increase their aerobic capacity creating the ability to go harder, longer, faster in the warmer months must go through the same process as more seasoned athletes to some extent. This is simply due to the fact that the benefits reaped in the spring/summer are sowed and planted in the fall/winter. In other words, the HIGHER-VOLUME/LOWER-INTENSITY work that you do now in BASE you will be rewarded for when it’s time to switch to LOWER-VOLUME/HIGHER-INTENSITY during BUILD/PEAK leaving you to do anaerobic (ie really intense intervals) work with more rest leading up to and during your racing (peak phase). Now that doesn’t mean intensity isn’t involved in base phase, it just is not random and follows the philosophy of what, when, and why that is integral to building lasting fitness that one can build on year to year.
All too often riders experience burnout due to mediocrity in their training. They go too hard, too often, on little recovery between workouts if any. This leads to all their workouts becoming hard tempo at best and their body’s energy system(s) getting over worked, not recovering, and thus not adapting. I often use the analogy of a pyramid in that if you think of your fitness as being shaped like a pyramid then the wider your base the taller the peak. If you train smarter and with more specificity over the years your base gets wider and wider and your peaks taller and taller respectively. If you ever have said, “how did they get that fast?” ask that person….more often than not they will say to some extent they trained smarter which allowed them to go harder. Sometimes it takes an objective perspective like a friend, coach, or spouse to help you balance training and recovery.
Over the past seasons I’ve found I’ve consistently been training smarter and with more precision regarding recovery cycles. I am getting older every year, BUT I’m getting faster too…it’s not a secret or magical training regimen. It’s managing training stress and recovery cycles more effectively tracking rides AND looking at the data versus just logging it…and ultimately training with more specificity. Hopefully you take a look at your own training after reading this and find trends that help you get more dialed with your training….and if you’re unsure….enjoy some recovery ITS OFF-SEASON!
By Brandon Davis [October 2013]