It is now almost the middle of June and most of you are well into your training programs, getting ready for one or many of the various GranFondos. Throughout these last few months, your cycling knowledge has probably improved just as quickly as your cycling endurance and hopefully you have made some new riding friends along the way.
As you start to exchange ideas and experiences you may start doubting what you are doing compared to your friends. How come your new riding buddy is riding 140km this weekend when you are only riding 120km? Why do they get most of their calories from drinks instead of eating them? Is it better? Should I be doing that? The more you learn, the more you may question whether or not what you are doing is right. This is a good thing and a bad thing.
It is great to question your training, nutrition and recovery as this is how you are going to learn and improve. However at some point in the training, you must decide when you are going to stick with what works for you, especially when it comes to your actual training program and nutrition.
Learning new workouts, foods and how other people train will help you learn more about yourself and what you may want to try. But gaining knowledge and using it to improve is different than adopting every new idea into your next training session. Jumping from program to program or changing up your diet constantly is setting yourself up for a season of confusion and possibly a poor outcome on event day.
There are so many different programs that will all get you to the finish line of a Fondo. Some programs are better than others or one program may even be better for you than for someone else. But you won’t know that until you try it. Once you have chosen a program, it is best to stick with that program to the end to see how it works for you. By adding in extra workouts or changing the programs several times throughout the season means that by the time you get to riding the Fondo, you won’t know what worked for you and what you need to change for the next season.
There is one exception to this rule and that is if the program you chose is injuring you or failing you. A failed program doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a bad program; it just isn’t the right one for you. You will know if you need to change your program if you can answer yes to any of the four following questions:
- Are you not improving even though you are following the program?
- Are you tired most of the time and not recovering?
- Are you stressed and not having fun?
- Did something change in your life, ie: new job, new relationship, or moving house that makes it difficult to complete the program as you initially had thought?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above you need to address why the program isn’t working for you and talk to your coach or if you chose an online program, you will need to search for something that provides more of what you are looking for.
Here are some tips of how you can change the program, based on the questions above.
- If you are not improving, the program could be too easy for you. Look for a program with more intensity during your short rides and less junk miles. If you don’t want to change the program, ride with a friend who is slightly faster than you who can push you during the intensity workouts.
- If you are tired much of the time and not recovering from the workouts, the program may be too difficult or you may not be recovering fast enough due to other circumstances. Before you chose an easier program, first look at your nutrition before, during and post workouts as well as your rest and recovery. If your nutrition and rest isn’t sufficient to allow your body to recover from the added stress of training, you are simply breaking it down. An easier program may allow your body to recover faster, but if you don’t address the other aspects of training, you won’t improve and you may find yourself quickly riding into a state of overtraining.
- If you are stressed about the training program and not having fun, you have probably chosen a program that is too advanced or you are being too hard on yourself. It takes months and years for your body to adapt to being a fast cyclist. If you truly want to get there, you have to put in the time. Before you can ride fast, you must first build a base or foundation and the only way to do that is to keep on riding.
- If your lifestyle has changed during your training program, you might not have a choice but to change the program to fit your new job, relationship, etc. We aren’t paid athletes who have the flexibility and can adjust their lives around their training schedule so yes your relationships and means of income should take priority over training for your hobby. Keep it in perspective and keep it fun.
Kristina Bangma is a coach, personal trainer and writer with a love of riding and racing. Email questions to Kristina@kitsenergy.com.