Words of wisddom by cycling coach BJ Basham on elliminating what we can do without.
Cycling is all about efficiency. It is easy to find stuff we can buy for our bikes that are supposed to make them faster, but the benefits of an efficient training schedule far outweigh any gains that a new set of wheels or carbon bars can provide. A well thought out training plan involves the 2 main components required to improve performance: Overload and Recovery. Your coach can give you specific workouts and there are several tools such as power meters and software to provide you with the most efficient means of getting the right amount of overload, but it is really up to you to make sure you make the most efficient use of the time provided for recovery. It is important to remember that just because you are not on the bike or in the gym, that doesn’t mean you are getting the rest you need to recover from the overload of your last training session.
So what can you do to make the most efficient use of the recovery time built into your training plan. The first step is to look at all the activities in your day-to-day life that might affect your ability to recover. For most of us, this includes going to work and taking care of our houses and families. Then think about what you can do to make the most efficient use of the time you have each day. For example: Could you change your work schedule so that you are not sitting in rush hour traffic each day? Could you work from home? What activities around the house can you change to make more efficient use of your time? Are there elements that add to the level of stress in your life? What can you do to reduce the level of stress? Do you get enough sleep? Are you staying up watching TV when you could be sleeping and recovering?
How about the efficient use of your money to help you recover. As cyclists, we all love to have the latest and lightest equipment, but once your bike is setup to be safe, and a reasonable weight, a lot of thought should go into the next component you buy with the idea that it will make “it” faster. Remember that without the rider, the bike just leans against the wall not going anywhere. You should think about if your money could be better spent in someway to make “you” faster. Since we are discussing recovery, what can you spend your money on to make your recovery time more effective. Most cyclists do not realize that the bike shop is not the only place they should be shopping. For example, a lawn tractor could have a much greater affect on my racing career than a 15 lb bike ever could because the tractor might cut my mowing time down from three hours to only one and also eliminate three hours of walking around in the heat on tired legs. The new expensive gadgets may look cool at the races, but could your money have been better spent to make you faster by helping you to be recovered and ready for the next workout or race.
Always remember that there are two parts to the training formula and that recovery is just as important as overload. You can use your training tools such as your heart rate monitor or power meter to make sure you do not ride too hard on your recovery days, but it takes some personal initiative and self control to make sure that the time spent off the bike also provides the greatest amount of recovery. I read an interview with Chris Horner where he explained that his training program consisted of five to six hour rides followed by the rest of the day spent on the couch. That kind of schedule is not realistic for most cyclists, but it does emphasize the importance of recovery. In order to get the most out of a prescribed workout, it is important that you are fresh and ready to put forth the effort required, which means that you must be recovered from your last workout.
In the old days (1980s) the rule of thumb for cyclists was “Don’t stand if you can sit and don’t sit if you can lay down” . This may be a bit extreme, but the spirit of the rule still holds true. Anything that you can do to improve your recovery can help your performance. And since everything in your life has affect on your recovery, everything can potentially modified to help you recover better