It’s that time of year again when we’ve all had some time off, probably eaten or drank a little more than usual and generally let ourselves have a little head space and given our bodies time to recoup. This year more than any other year I have appreciated the value of not putting pressure on myself early on in my training cycles. Winter training should still be challenging but it should be fun! If it feels like a chore at this stage it will only get harder from here on in. If you’re stressed about your season now, you’ll be pulling your hair out come spring (this was the pattern of my 2013 season) and trust me it’s likely to end in some form of burn out or you simply not achieving your potential.
In order to train well and perform your mind and body need to be happy. If you place too much mental pressure on yourself it will eventually amount to stress, which will affect your performance. Likewise, hitting things too hard, too early can also amount to physical stress and overload on your body which will result in fatigue. Now obviously I’m not saying we shouldn’t be doing hard sessions but we just shouldn’t be doing hard sessions ALL the time- our bodies and minds simply can’t keep up with this process of physical and mental stress. So what should we be doing this time of year?
1. Getting in the miles: I’ve written about this before- this time of year is ALL about the miles. Tim Don once said “Winter miles = Summer smiles” and I like that notion. It’s a proven fact that a decent base fitness provides the foundation for the hard season ahead. Neglect it at your peril! It can be tough though….this winter has certainly provided some rather wet scenarios and a fair amount of detours due to flooding. It’s important to not become disheartened by this.. I’m a firm believer that we should just be getting out in it, a little bit of rain never killed anyone. And I always find a bigger sense of satisfaction when I’m out in the elements and everyone else it at home. I think it builds mental toughness and prepares you for the English weather because let’s face it…how often do we race in perfect conditions? Make these miles fun..ride with different people, enjoy a cafe stop and relax. It shouldn’t be about power averages or speed, it should be about controlled efforts and a steady heart rate. And always remember to build up slowly!
2. Embrace the turbo: I’m definitely not one for sitting on a turbo for 3-4 hrs (I would personally rather kill myself) but I do appreciate the value of the turbo in terms of safety and specificity of training. Although I believe that getting out there is the only way to prepare you for riding properly, when its icy and dangerous I do feel that turbo has its place. Again I could not envisage riding longer than 1.5 hrs on the turbo but we’re all different and I know people who sit there for up to 5-6 hrs at a time. Fair play to them is all I can say. I have no doubt that that they are getting benefits from these sessions and if you don’t fancy the weather then it’s better than nothing.
3. Don’t make up for lost time: Sessions will be missed and may need to be adapted. Work, injury, illness, weather, whatever it may be that stops you doing a session it’s frustrating but it’s happened. Get over it, be flexible and try not to stress about what you haven’t done, look at the sessions you have achieved and try to maintain some consistency. I know we’ve all done it but going out and training when you feel under the weather or are a carrying an injury only results in more stress being placed on the body which will eventually take its toll. Be sensible, rest up and live to fight another day.
5. XC run it! Mud, sweat, few tears! What more can you want?! Ok I’m still not sure I LOVED it but a sick part of me definitely wants more! I would normally partake in some road racing over the winter months but I honestly couldn’t face another race where I knew my times wouldn’t be what I wanted so instead of torturing myself I decided to challenge myself and so something new. It meant that I couldn’t compare and couldn’t stress about my times or the result. I was there because I wanted some good old fashioned pain! XC running is a great strength session and I know it will have given my legs a good honest boost for the season ahead.
4.Finally…. Love it! Love what you are doing, challenge your mind, challenge your body and let yourself be inspired by those around you. Training is hard, its takes desire, strength, motivation and determination. All of which will falter at times. Again don’t be hard on yourself. Talk to someone who’s understands what you’re doing. We can all learn from others around us. For me my coach is both a friend and inspiration. He keeps me grounded, kicks me up the arse when I need it and encourages me to believe that I’m good enough to achieve what I want and more. Finding a coach that understands you as an athlete and a person is key. I appreciate not everyone can afford or have access to a coach so find a club. I’m continuously humbled and inspired by various members of my team. From beginners to Ironman hero’s. Each and every person out there training has something to teach you. Enjoy training with them, whether you’re being dragged or doing the dragging…it’s more fun as a team.