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November 2016

Spend your clams wisely

Banging on about moderation is something I tend to do, but if I am brutally honest about it I am not particularly good at it. Life is a million miles an hour, even though I am working less at my main job, all the other stuff that goes along means that every inch of my life is full, and this is never more apparent when I talk to other people about life, especially when we are trying to arrange a catch up. It becomes pretty apparent quite quickly that I am the problem child with a race or event scheduled every weekend, because that’s the way I spend my clams in order to keep my own equilibrium (it teeters on the edge on occasion).

I am beginning to understand the appeal of the old ‘less is more’ adage, however I have always been this way and I don’t know how I would do life if I was not cramming events, work and training into every corner or crevice of time I have.

Thus, while family and bike time is primary, I have figured out how my time is best spent in order to maximise the training time I have.

Have a plan. Having a plan allows athletes to go out and achieve something purposeful every time they ride. Training goals can be as simple as completing a session, yet can do myriads for performance. Having a well-crafted plan reduces the likelihood of going out and doing rides that aren’t going to benefit your fitness and skills. Merely having the structure of a program with consistent measured periods of overreaching and recovery will result in fitness increases. Riding for fitness doesn’t have to be difficult if you apply the key principles of coaching, and doesn’t require $10000 bikes and fancy new $500 shoes (but hey, if you can afford them and that’s your thing go bananas!).

A plan for me, who crafts voodoo-like macro and microcycles for my athletes yet doesn’t have time to pore through my own stats with needle-like finesse, can be as simple as ‘the last two days were heavy training days I will feel like shit, probs should do some strength that doesn’t require too much top end, maybe slightly more than last week, the recover tomorrow’. Wa la. Voodoo.

Evaluate the optional extras. I understand the varied benefits of optional extras. Strength work on the bike can be complemented with gym sessions. A bit of stretching and yoga never went astray. Power metres and heart rate monitors can be invaluable tools when used correctly. Shedding excess fat mass will result in climbing up hills better. But what’s the best way to spend your clams? If you are an athlete, like many I coach and know, who max’s out at 10hrs/week on the bike, I would argue replacing bike sessions with gym time may not be the best way to spend those clams. If you are a shredded whippet then investing time in reducing minimal fat mass becomes a game of diminishing returns, when you could be looking at boosting watts instead. It comes back to specificity; what are you trying to achieve and how are you going to get there? How is your time best spent in a manner that is congruent with getting to the final goal?

Keep it in perspective. Yes many of us have bikes and racing pulsing through our veins, along with coffee. It becomes a part of our identities.

Yet…it’s just a bike race. Winning a bike race doesn’t make you a better person, or contribute to society. I love bikes, riding, and racing, but at the same time being able to see it for what it is; essentially a hedonistic fickle hobby (harsh but true) in which we attempt to improve ourselves as a personal challenge, can allow athletes to reduce the innate pressure on themselves to perform and help develop a bit of resilience. No one is solving world hunger with a bike race, it’s just a thing we do because we love it, and that’s ok. But sometimes the moderation can go out the window when we’re chasing the good feels.

That’s not to say I don’t care, I do (otherwise I wouldn’t be hauling my arse out of bed before 0500 in the mornings, and tasting vomit and blood during efforts), just that in the grand scheme of life your kids probably aren’t going to remember the time you came second in the C-grade criterium.

Spending clams wisely may mean doing a 2hr30 ride on the weekend instead of 3hrs, so you can go to the pool with the kids or catch up with friends. We only have a finite amount of clams and the way in which we spend them is pretty important. Use the clams wisely.

 

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If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you

I hate Fitspo memes. Like I REALLY hate them. An unrealistic body of a fitness model glistening in sweat, with a clearly defined six pack; the ‘ideal’ athletic aesthetic, is not really indicative of what ‘healthy’ is. Sometimes I look at Fitspo memes as a way to pick apart what ‘fitness’ culture is (in the case of ‘Fitness’ and ‘Bikini’ competitions it’s wholly aesthetic; there’s not a lot that is functional about those beach muscles!), but there is one meme that I enjoy.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. 

fitspo
LOL at beach handstands.

If you keep doing the same thing day after day, year after year you’re not going to see change in your life. This can be applied to all aspects of life; your work, relationships, nutrition, and of course, athletic life. I don’t need the picture of the ‘ideal’ female body as a backdrop to this ‘Inspo’, I think the words can speak for themselves.

I recently raced a marathon (it’s becoming a habit, unfortunately; never mind XC IS COMING!) and realised that this year I have raced more marathons than I have collectively over the cumulative years of my cycling life. It’s been a steep learning curve, but coming from XC, it has been one I have been glad to get the gist of a little quicker. It’s been challenging; and i’ve been changed. Every single race has its challenges and it’s in the perseverance and overcoming these challenges that sees the most growth.

Obviously being challenged physically (followed by rest!) is what leads to adaptation and fitness growth, but it also applies to race psychology.

I sometimes see people avoiding races with a large competitive fields. After all, if you don’t go so well in the race maybe the image you want to present to the world of you as high-achieving bike racer won’t be presented on that day? A bigger field means there are more people who have potential to be having a good day…perhaps less potential for you to get the coveted W.

Firstly, getting nervous about a race is normal, having doubts about yourself is normal. There are tips and techniques you can use to get through this, but acknowledging you’re feeling that way is the first step. We race bike races to be the best we can be and to push our limits so a good field surely is a better option than racing in a field of three!

For athletes that turn to water in these times reassurance is really important, and focussing on process goals and moving away from the incessant need to win is key. We can look at LOVING thy opponent (regardless of how you feel about them on a personal level) rather than fearing their strength. We can use stronger opponents as tools for growth. And we can see ourselves as changeable beings and fitness as a sliding scale; rather than our ability being a fixed quality. Who gives a fuck if you have an average day? Maybe your mum, if you’re lucky (she probably doesn’t care TBH).

We can work on seeing ourselves as people outside of athletic achievement and have bike racing as one part of, not the sole key of our being.

What’s the worst that can happen? That you don’t go top three in your pet event and you’re worried how that will make you look? Please, i’ve learnt more from my failures than successes. People who endlessly make excuses after races get a reputation, which leads me to…

…Acceptance. Go your hardest. If that’s a win that’s great. If that’s 18th that’s great. Either way it’s great if you did your best. Sounds trite but it’s true. Year after year at XCO worlds I see posts from athletes being disappointed with their results ‘only came 50th not what I expected’… What did you expect? You started in the grid at 67th, you gave it your all, that’s as good as it gets. IT’S WORLD CHAMPS. If you’ve emptied the tank and you’ve learnt something then that’s a win in itself. Onwards and upwards have a beer and celebrate.

It’s just bike racing.

Nothing is a given, you could be the raddest descender ever and be having a bad day and get overtaken by someone usually less skilled than you. You can have the highest FTP in the field and get overtaken on a 20min climb by someone who wants it more. We can’t control those around us, only ourselves!

It ain’t over ’till it’s over. I see this with some athletes; got a flat? Not finishing. Especially convenient when you were going really well then a bunch of risers passed you, you flatted than, bah, all too hard.

Mountain biking—more than any other cycling discipline—is a race that ain’t over ’till it’s over. Climbing, descending, technical sections, crashes, the elements, mechanicals…we saw all of the above come into play in the women’s race of 2016 Marathon Nationals. It’s easy to ride strong when shit’s going to plan, when shit goes bad it sorts out wheat from chaff.

Thinking about your thinking (metacognition) and developing some self-awareness about how you race is an invaluable tactic. Embrace the challenge and your opponents; after all without them you’re just doing a training ride with some bunting.

Happy trails.

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The Dingo Enduro was a hard race for me physically and mentally. Having cranked out 110km with a million sprints the day prior and at the end of a 16hr week I was physically cooked. The whole day I had a migrane and was kicking myself for small technical errors. All in all I FELT LIKE SHIT. By my final runs I had focussed in on my riding and blocked out all the other ‘noise’ going on distracting me from riding well. People probably thought I had it easy during this race, but far from it! The battle within rages endlessly, it’s what how you react to it that counts.

 

 

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