The best formula I found for prepping for racing is Stress*Rest*Fuel. I bet you have heard this before. Please believe it, it absolutely can make or break your racing season. At its roots it is a very simple formula. However it can be a full time job where life is directed toward one objective, the best possible health which is the basis of all athletic ability. The trick of this simple formula is when one is unable to dedicate fulltime hours. We then need to add agility into the mix by delicately balancing our reality and the formula.
When I first began to race mountain bikes (let us just say a LONG time ago) I purchased
The Cyclist’s Training Bible by Joe Friel. This book and its principles have guided me throughout the years to help me better understand the cycle of training I commit to each year. Since my initial purchase there has been an updated version of the book released with more recent training science added. Regardless of which version, the first two chapters are a must read at the start of each season. Having found the principles in this book so valuable, I would like to share some of that wisdom with you.
So going back to the beginning, how do we balance the above formula? Before any action is taken it is important to first look at our commitment to training. The greater the commitment, the more life will pivot around three basic factors of training: working out, sleep/rest, and eating.
Let’s break down how the formula works:
When we eat our body is fueled for training and speeds recovery by replacing depleted energy and nutrient stores and helps us put the optimal effort into our training sessions.
Working out and resting has a synergistic effect on fitness. Each can cause the release of growth hormone which in turn speeds recovery, rebuilds muscle, and breaks down body fat.
Put all this together and we have a greater ability to reach our optimal athletic performance.
Now that we understand, how much of ourselves will we give to the equation keeping in mind the balance that needs to be in place for the other things in our lives? For those of us with full-time jobs, spouses, children, a home to maintain and of course our sanity, it will be a necessity.
Joe Friel’s philosophy that is outlined in the “10 Commandments of training” helped me put it all into a perspective which in turn provided me with my unique equation. I hope you can use the following to help you find your unique equation towards a program and a successful racing season.
Commandment 1: Train Moderately
The biggest mistake I’ve and countless other athletes have madeis not adhering to easy days being easy. We are then unable to go hard enough on hard training days. Consequently the synergistic effect on stress and rest is compromised and our fitness level and performance stays mediocre. If you want to make gains in fitness and performance, make the difference between the intensities of hard and easy days greater.
Commandment 2: Train Consistently
Sticking to a training plan can be tough and there are always moments that we are led astray. Do your best to get yourself into a pattern of training that fits your schedule and needs. If you need to miss a workout don’t panic, just do your best to pick up and get back into your routine. No surprises and few opportunities for excuses. An example of my current routine is:
- Monday: strength
- Tuesday: hard training day
- Wednesday: easy training day
- Thursday: hard training day
- Friday: rest day
- Saturday: hard training day with longer hours
- Sunday: endurance/tempo day with longer hours
Each week I know what to expect and can plan ahead for each week accordingly.
Commandment 3: Get adequate rest
Remember the formula? We need rest and sleep to let our body adapt to the stresses of training. I know for me it takes 8 -9 hours of sleep each night for me to be at my best. Figure out what you need, adhere to it and you will see improvement in fitness and performance.
Commandment 4: Train with a plan
Hmmm, this can apply to almost any endeavor in life. Once a goal is set, a plan needs to be in place to reach that goal. There are enough resources available for an athlete to go it alone, but I have found the most success by working with a coach to establish a plan. If a plan is followed and evaluated, improvement will happen.
Commandment 5: Train with Groups infrequently
This can be a tough one to swallow. Who doesn’t like company? However, this has been extremely beneficial for me to factor into my training. It is not so much that you do it infrequently, but you have to know what your plan and goals are and does the group ride fit that. Use groups when they can help you achieve your goal for the day, otherwise avoid them if it will lead you to stray away from your plan. Too often we ride with a group when an easy day is planned and the ride turns out not so easy. (refer to commandment 1) I also find that solo time on the bike allows me to really get in touch with how I am responding to training and how I feel. (refer to commandment 9)
Commandment 6: Plan to Peak
Pick out those important races in your schedule and plan your training so that you peak for them. There is a science and cycle to training that helps to attain this goal. This is where a coach is most helpful or you can purchase the Training Bible. I find a coach helps me put the correct balance into my plan and gets me to that Peak for important races. It is one less thing I need to think about. A coach allows me to make wisest decisions about my time and commitment to training. I do the least amount of the most specific training that brings continual improvement to my fitness and performance. (More on this in commandment 8)
Commandment 7: Improve Weaknesses
We all love to do what we are good at, but avoiding our weaknesses (obviously) keeps them weak. Find that weakness and commit to improve it by spending more time in that area. For me it was the ability to put super intense efforts into my ride. As an endurance athlete I could ride for hours, but make me do an hour of intervals, YUCK. I had to learn to come out of my comfort zone and embrace being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Commandment 8: Trust your training
Let’s say that again, TRUST YOUR TRAINING. If its solid, know it and keep your sanity in check. The best example is how wrong it feels to cut back before big races. I find myself ready to pop sometimes when I have built up energy from cutting back. I had to learn that popping with energy is exactly what I want going into a big race. That way I am ready, eager and able to unleash it at the right time to perform at my absolute best.
Commandment 9: Listen to your Body
Training smart can put you above and beyond another athlete who only trains hard. Listen to your body, it has a lot to teach you. (refer back to commandment 5)
Commandment 10: Commit to Goals
Be honest about your lifestyle and how it relates to your training when setting goals. If realistic goals are set you will find it easier to commit and follow through(refer back to all the above commandments)
If you struggle meeting your goals, try to figure out what is holding you back. Look at the formula more closely. Is it sleep? Diet? Structure? Set yourself up for success and find the balance YOU need in your life and make the change. Improvement guaranteed.
Miss Chapter One with Aaron Albright? Check below for a link. Chapter three, coming soon!