Wednesday, September 28, 2011

For a Better 2012

As the 2011 road and criterium season comes to an end, it is a good time to reflect on your past performance, determine what your goals are for next year, identify obstacles that will prevent you from achieving those goals, and seek solutions to overcoming those obstacles.

Looking around my team,  I noticed quite a few people who "burned out" a bit this year.  This is understandable.  Our race season is pretty long with road races starting in late February and (important) races running until mid-September.  It is impossible to be "on" for all of these races, so it is necessary to determine what races are important to you and create a training plan that will physically and mentally prepare you for these races.

For me, I approached this year with no known goals and expectations from myself...and my results certainly showed that lack of focus and commitment.  I know I am not going to make money racing my bike and there are a lot of things more important to me than winning a bike race.  But--since I have chosen to race my bike--I owe it to my family (who I "ignore" 12+ hrs a week to train), my team (who counts on me to perform), and myself to ensure that I getting the most out of this endeavor.

For most people, identifying identifying "A" races is pretty easy.  Determining your race limiters, constructing a training plan to overcome those limiters, and executing this plan is definitely the hard part.  So how do you go about making sure that next year is better than last year?

If the above paragraph does not make any sense to you, the first thing you need to do is buy and read The Cyclist's Training Bible by Joe Friel.  The information in this book will provide all of the necessary information you need to understand how to prepare for your goal events and is a good foundation to all other training resources.  This book should be read by any competitive cyclist.

Once you have read the above book, you might be able to put together a training plan to help you achieve your goals.  (If your training plan is just a number of miles or hours per week, you did something wrong.  Try again.)  However, you might still find yourself unsure of what to do next.

One option you could investigate is finding an on-line training plan.  These have the advantage of being relatively cheap and, when followed, will probably make you a stronger cyclist.  The disadvantage is that they do not offer much flexibility, do not care if you miss a workout, and know nothing about your "A race limiters".

Yet another option worth exploring is getting a coach.  This is by far the most expensive option, but it is also the best option.  A good coach works with you to understand your race goals and even helps you set your goals.  A coach will analyze your weaknesses and develop a training plan to overcome those weaknesses.  A coach can help you get back on track with your training when illness or work derails your training schedule.  A coach holds you accountable for doing your workouts and achieving your goals.

As I mentioned earlier, a coach is definitely the most expensive option, but it also has the makings to be the most successful option.  I have recently started to work with a coach and I can see the benefits already. three weeks I have not seen measurable improvement; but I have been more consistent with my training, I have been riding with purpose, and every time I get off my bike I feel like I achieved something.  (Oh...and I have seen some improvement in my watts/kg numbers.)  If working with a coach is an option available to you, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

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