How to Train for Your Goals – Big or Small
If you want to gain experience, set a PR, ride further and faster, and be your best between the tape, developing a training plan is the first step toward doing something great for you! Both as an athlete and a coach, I value backward planning as an important first step to success. Here are six steps to get you started:
- Start with a question. By the end of the season/year, what do you want to know or be able to do? I want to be able to ride 25 miles without stopping. I want to podium at a UCI race. I want to improve my cornering skills so I am more efficient at CX racing. I want to overcome my fear of descending steep hills. I want to be able to keep up on my MTB group ride. I want to learn better strategy at road racing so I don’t pull everyone and then get passed at the finish.
- Then think about what fitness you need to accomplish your goals. Do you need long steady power, or the ability to repeatedly give short intense bursts of power? Your fear may be telling you an area of weakness… if you are scared of descents, maybe you need more core strength to feel you are in charge, that you are driving the bike not vice versa. If you dread climbs, maybe you need to do more intervals on a grade. A coach can help you find the best combination of intervals and volume and can help you make sure you are getting adequate rest in between.
- What skills do you need to make the most of your fitness? Think outside the box here. If you want to improve your cornering or overcome your fear of descending, yes riding your bike on twisty trails and steep pitches is important, but also consider working on a balance board and exercise ball and learning to juggle as ways to improve your handling and coordination. Watching races and interviews with top riders can help you see and understand good skill and strategy in action.
- Make sure your easy days are easy and your hard days are hard. These days jobs often have more flexible or unique schedules, so there’s no rule that says your long days need to be Saturday or Sunday. However you choose to structure your week, make sure your hard days are hard and your easy days are easy. Intervals are hard, long days are hard, strength training is hard. Easy means short, not much pressure on the pedals. Gentle yoga is easy, lifting and plyometrics are not! You might do a block of hard days together, followed by a couple of easy days.
- Who are your allies? As I mentioned above, a coach is a great asset to have to look at the big picture and help you design and workable training plan. He or she is also your advocate. While training might often be a solo activity or a sacred time for yourself, having companions at times is huge for enjoying the journey. Maybe it is someone to meet you at the gym for lifting. Maybe it’s having a weekly group ride to get in intensity with friendly competition. Maybe it’s joining a Strava challenge or having virtual company on Zwift. Or it can be a buddy you travel to races with. Find people who are a positive influence toward your goals, who are up for adventure but who you can trust to ride easy when you need to.
- Know why you ride. At some point, you’re going to flat or have a bad day. Someone is going to get upset that you ride too much, or heckle you where it hurts. You are going to wake up not motivated to train. Make sure you know deep down why you ride. You don’t always have to feel motivated, sometimes you just need to do what you have set out to do, and that means knowing what is important to you and why. Comparison is a natural part of competing, but when you finish a ride or race, it’s not your placing that tells you the most about your performance; it’s what your gut says that reflects whether or not you have given your best.
I’m a mountain bike and cyclocross racer and I run my own coaching business. As a former middle school teacher, helping others to learn and to chase their passions has always been important to me. Growing up with 6 younger siblings, family has always been a source of friendship, camaraderie, and motivation. It was with my brothers that I first experienced the joys of adventuring… we brought road bikes on CX trails, CX bikes on MTB trails, and MTBs to hiking trails. Weathering the New England elements and pushing limits together, and competing with each other on Strava segments, formed strong bonds. Today I love taking my Hail Advanced on long descents, my Pique Advanced on technical XC trails, and my Brava on the CX circuit (unless I’m visiting my brothers in which case who knows which bikes will take us where).
Find motivation, inspiration, and helpful tips for the kind of riding and racing you’re into here:
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