Prioritizing Your Training for Maximal Benefit
In the past several months, we have all entered uncharted territory and a landscape that was once dotted with focus points on our racing/training calendars is now a barren landscape. It is inherent in our nature as athletes to not be idle, to keep moving and pushing forward and now here you are, with the lines between work and home blurred and for many, the loss of a commute means extra time to train for the foreseeable future. How often, as athletes, do you get to have a free calendar and extra unexpected time to train and focus on weaknesses that need shoring up? That time is now and it is up to you to make the most of it. The key is to make this time period a benefit rather than a hindrance for your overall fitness. Extra time does not mean extra training but rather purposed training. Our goal should always be to become the healthiest athlete we can be inside and out.
Each day as we are encompassed with the swirling monsoon of information, press conferences and endless opinions on social media it is up to us to make the choice of when enough is enough and limit the exposure and depth of saturation. I know this time has brought unforeseen circumstances, stress, schedule changes and even financial uncertainty into your lives and it is a choice in how we will sift through and handle these stressors. The ability to handle adversity and stress while remaining adaptable is a huge asset to an athlete.
Mental focus and strength are what will take you farther than your competitors. This time period gives you not only an opportunity to practice positive self-talk, will power and true determination but also gives you the opportunity to help others or teach these attributes to loved ones. Limit the saturation, replace every negative thought with 2 positive thoughts and embrace the stress and anxiety as a growth and opportunity to stretch to new heights. I know this sounds cliché and oversimplified, but these simple ideas can completely change your mindset on race/testing day and the outcome. Let the unexpected ignite your creativity and adaptability. We have all been at a race or during a race and had something totally unexpected happen and our reaction will directly impact the outcome or result. Outcomes are 90% of the time not based on externals but our internal response. Remember you are in control, so focus on the things you can control and let the rest go. Mental health is just as important to strengthen as your physical health and training.
With many of us working from home and having more flexibility with our schedules, you undoubtedly want to make the most of it. That said, it does not mean that you switch out your 1-hour recovery spin for a 5-hour ride due to the increased time you have on your schedule. The tendency to over train and overreach with the additional time is tempting but will not give you a positive outcome. Smart training, purposed training not duration, will see you reach higher ground. We have touched a bit about the need for recovery and the signs that recovery is needed so now let’s take next steps and look at what recovery does for the body.
Recovery weeks are likely the most important week in your training cycle. Recovery aids in bolstering the immune system, which is something we have all had on the forefront of our minds the past few months. A healthy immune system will aid in our overall health and the prevention of lost training days. In order to trigger the body to start protein synthesis and mitochondrial biogenesis the body must acknowledge a significant decrease in training load and intensity. The initial process takes 3 days and a bit longer as you age. The total protein channeling and biogenesis process for growth takes at least a week. Cutting your recovery week short means cutting your recovery and maximum gains short. If your training is not decreased enough the process is not initiated. Hard days need to be hard and easy days need to be truly EASY! Just as you would not put your car in park and rev the engine on high for days until the oil and fluids are dry you should not rev your “engine” on high all the time until your body is drained not giving it the chance to recover and properly use all the “gears” in training. Training over time without giving your body the chance to go through mitochondrial biogenesis will not give you the gains you desire but rather stress your body out further resulting in a plateau or decrease in power. The hours you have trained will be lost, and your training has become a negative rather than a positive. Make recovery a priority in your training and do not short cut the recovery process just because you have extra time to train.
Having more time on your schedule is also a great time to invest in weaknesses on and off the bike such as, getting comfortable in those aero bars, focusing on technique with pedaling efficiency and cadence drills, yoga and adding additional stretching for flexibility on the bike. No day or workout is a filler or wasted. Most injuries occur due to muscle imbalances so following a consistent strength program will help bolster your overall training.
How have you been creative with your training during this time? In what ways have you grown or strengthened? With planning and focus, you can have a personal training camp that makes all the difference and you can come out of this time period a rested and stronger cyclist mentally and physically.