And, there’s the lull in training and intensity during the winter months accompanied by trainer rides and possibly, a few, fun fat bike rides in the snow. Yet, through all the seasons runs a thread of passion and love for the sport that unites all the seasons in a unified, blissful experience. An experience of health, fitness, adventure, camaraderie, and personal victories. Riding a bike offers freedom and adventure unparalleled by other experiences. Whether it’s seeing wildlife up close from your mountain bike on a remote bike trail; or, claiming a new personal best while riding your road bike on a long ride or race – the cycling journey never gets old.
“We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter’s evening. Some of us let our dreams die, but others nourish and protect them, nurse them through bad days till they bring them to sunshine and light.” ~ Woodrow Wilson
Gone are the epic rides of summer only to be replaced with cooler temperatures, shorter days, and less time on the bike. Aside from cyclocross, the 2014 cycling season is over, but, this season may just be the most important season of them all. Now, it’s dreaming season . Dreams are where the journey starts for next year. Dreams set you down the path towards achieving something you may not have believed you could accomplish. They are what drive you to fit workouts into hectic schedules and push you when you want to quit. Dreaming season is when you start fueling the fire for 2015. Have you dialed in your cycling dreams for next season?
For some, it may seem too soon to think about next year but for others, many are already planning their 2015 race and cycling season. Regardless of which camp you fall into, it’s important to have lofty new goals, new ambitions, and new venues to fuel your cycling passions through the winter months. However, one misstep in planning is not pausing to reflect on what has recently come to pass. Personal reflection of the past season offers insights to truly optimize your training and racing regimen going forward.
Fueling the fires for next year begins with evaluating this past year. Set aside some time for reflection; consider asking yourself 10 Questions to Evaluate the Success of Your Cycling Season. Or, get insights into your performance by evaluating if your goals were smart (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound). You may question if you were Mentally Set Up for Success?
Moving past the emotional and psychological evaluation, don’t forget to take stock of your bike and bike parts performance. Did you have the right bike and tire setup for the conditions, geography, and terrain in which you raced or trained? Take notice of what worked and what didn’t work. It’s easy to get attached to particular brands or a set up because that is what you have always used; but upon reflection of bike accessories and bike part performance, honest appraisal of performance can steer you to look for cycling accessories that will work better for you in the future. Sometimes getting a bike fit can help better position you for a season of successful riding.
As an athlete, there is certainly a lot of value in staying in tune with your achievements and goals. However, it’s equally important to take the time to reflect on those achievements so that you can repeat them. If you find yourself unable to reach your goals, don’t get discouraged – take the time to re-assess them. Equally important, wWen you’re working toward a goal that’s important to you, the last thing you want is to face an obstacle or unexpected challenge. Set up your 2015 right by planning ahead, plan now to get your road bike or mountain bike in order, along with the gear and resources you need. By dreaming big and having the best bike parts, your successful training and race prep is well underway for a successful 2015.
Enthusiastic recreational riders and competitive athletes can make early season training errors. Namely, taking on too much physical activity too quickly. Going too fast, exercising for too long or simply doing too much of one type of physical activity can strain your muscles and lead to an overuse injury.
Injury is among one of the most challenging experiences you can face as a cyclist. When you’re injured, you almost certainly can’t ride in the way to which you’ve become accustomed–and you’re often not able to ride at all. Obviously, the first rule of thumb is to avoid injury in the first place! But when an injury or a crash happens, how can you recover from an injury faster?
In the same way that you have goals when you are training and competing, you should have goals set for your rehabilitation. Instead of focusing on what you are missing from not training, focus on what you have to do to heal faster.
Focus on nutrition. You are what you eat. If injury is preventing you from sticking to your cycling training plan, consider watching what you eat! Not to avoid gaining weight, but to improve your recovery time. The post, What Can I Eat to Recover from Injury? illustrates the role of omega-3 fats, protein, glucose, and herbal supplements in injury prevention and recovery. What you eat can affect your mindset, motivation, and outlook.
Focus on strengthening your weakness. Substitute your ride time for other supportive activities. Consider heading to the gym to lift weight and do core workouts. Or, maybe focusing on stretching and yoga would be most beneficial. According to the post, Yoga for Cyclist, cyclists need to focus on leg strength, which many poses in yoga target, but they also need to focus on flexibility and lower back strength. If you are new to yoga, you may want to experiment with different types of yoga to see which works best for you. Yoga offers many varieties and styles from the slow pace of Hatha yoga, to the fast vigorous pace of Ashtanga yoga. All styles can be beneficial but the most applicable for cyclists are styles that focus on continuous movement. Styles such as Ashtanga, Power, and Kundalini are steady flowing, work through a full range of movements and build great muscle endurance.
Focus on your bike. Can the Right Bike Parts Make a Difference in Injury Prevention? In a sport based on such a highly repetitive action, like pedaling, the first line of defense against injury is a proper bike fit. Whether you’ve just sustained an injury or you are in recovery, consider the benefits of a professional bike fit. Having the right bike parts and bike fit impacts comfort but also technique which is crucial to preventing overuse injuries.
Focus on Data. Data, as in metrics, biofeedback, and a training log offer keen insights into your recovery. The post, 5 Ways to Use Data to Recover from Injury, suggests different ways to track soreness, mood, fatigue, motivation, sleep hours, and sleep quality as key metrics in your recovery program.
Ultimately, training is all about stressing your body with hard workouts, and then letting your body adapt to that load. If you push too far, injury and crashes happen. While many riders understand that recovery is key to getting back on the bike, oftentimes they fail to take their recovery as seriously as they do their training. Heal faster. Focus on overall recovery, stretching, hydrating, and resting. Soon, you’ll be back on the bike in no time with added gains towards overall sports performance.
Your heart is pumping, your legs are burning, and you’re dripping enough sweat to put out a small forest fire.
You are suffering.
But is your suffering worthwhile? Are you “just riding” every day without a strategic approach to your training? Are your efforts hard enough to force physical adaptations? Do you take easy days for recovery so you can repeat your critical workouts?
Having a strategic approach and structured training means every workout has a purpose. Every step, pedal and stroke is being performed with the confidence it’s the right thing to do and performed the right way. The post, The Right Way to Train, shares four essential components of deliberate practice, and based on these four components, there is a 4-step process that embodies the right way to train:
- Set a specific goal
- Get expert instruction
- Perform structured training
- Get immediate feedback
Having a strategic approach includes not only having the tools needed, but also, including a comprehensive plan. Meaning, a plan that includes training on the bike and off the bike. Daily nutrition and sleep habits play a vital role in training properly. Managing your overall stress levels, including time management, ensures proper recovery.
As you prepare for your 2014 season as an athlete, make sure you have all of the components to training “the right way” to achieve your goal.
Having ambition goals for the season is great. Discover what you need to support your training in reaching those goals. Do you need a cycling coach? Maybe you need a bike fit or training software? Having the right tools, systems, habits, and overall strategy in place can make the difference between suffering through your season with disappointment or making big gains in reward and satisfaction.
Motivation is the foundation all athletic effort and accomplishment. Without your desire and determination to improve your sports performances, all of the other mental factors, confidence, intensity, focus, and emotions, are meaningless. To become the best athlete you can be, you must be motivated to do what it takes to maximize your ability and achieve your goals.
But when the weather is poor, sunlight is at a minimum, and riding conditions are less than ideal, what do you do? Add to the fact that the holidays are now over with not much to look forward to between now and Spring and race season, many find the added holiday weight gain and winter conditions to be a downer on motivation. How do you stay motivated to ride?
The reason motivation is so important is that it is the only contributor to sports performance over which you have control. Much like training your physical body for the challenges of cycling, motivation is built too – it is not stumbled upon. Following are 5 ways to build your motivation muscle:
Have a goal. As you are considering your new goals for 2014, it’s important to evaluate the previous season with an objective, yet critical eye. Too loft of a goal may be intimidating and back fire on you. The post, Make Proper Goal Setting a Priority for Your 2014 Cycling Season offers 10 key questions for evaluation and proper goal setting for your 2014 season. Make intermediate and long term goals to keep you inspired to do your daily workouts.
Fine tune your fitness – use a heart rate monitor or power meter. Sure, heart rate monitors and power meters have been around for a while now, but how effectively are you using them? Learning what what you need to know about the nuances, ranges, and data interpretation can make a difference in just getting a workout in versus targeting a specific workout in which you hit numbers and are motivated to get after it again the next day.
Make friends with the trainer. Nobody likes riding the trainer much less riding it for consecutive days in a row, but there are ways to overcome trainer woes to eliminate boredom and support your training. Read the post here for ideas on the best equipment to use and tips for trainer workouts. Try different approaches, times of day, and lengths of workouts to keep your trainer workouts fresh.
Dial it in! Your body and your bike – that is! Have you gained weight during the holiday season? Check out Top 5 Apps for Cyclists for Off-Season Fitness Gains – for easy ways to drop the pounds. And, consider getting a bike fit. Yes, a bike fit. We’ve heard about them, talked about them, but somehow, most of us don’t get one. And why not? They say the quickest way to get faster on the bike is with a bike fit. Sure, fit impacts comfort but it also impacts technique which is crucial to preventing overuse injuries and how you ride. Meaning it directly affects how much power you can efficiently deliver to the pedals. Dialing in your body and your bike parts will keep you motivated as you discover how the new changes positively affect your time on the bike.
Train your brain. How are you training your brain? We think of discipline as a form of training or exercising the brain but use the power of visualization to motivate yourself and accomplish you 2014 season goals. The post, The Power of Mental Suffering offers key insights as to how thought creates a powerful reality.
Ultimately, motivation is not something that can be given to you. Rather, motivation must ultimately come from within. Just like the passion you have for cycling. Dig deep, find what inspires you, connect with that and pedal your way to a successful 2014 cycling season. Happy New Year friends!
What is the best way to get good at cyclocross and have fun at the same time? Simple – race cyclocross – a lot! You’ll learn technique, skills and race strategy as you go.
But for those athletes who want to focus their efforts and manage their time, a good plan it to structure your cyclocross training week . But what does that look like? While training time, heart rate and power zones vary, a typical training week usually includes the following.
Monday – Off Recovery is equally as important as training. The recovery period is when fitness gains are made and you reap the benefits of the hard work you’ve done. Sleep, Stretching, Hydration, and Nutrition are the SSHNs of Recovery.
Tuesday – Hard Day with Efforts. Cyclocross races are very high intensity and extremely demanding. The racer is at or above lactate threshold for the entire race. As such, your training efforts need to prepare you for your cyclocross race, but not tax you either.
Thursday – Recovery or Skills day. Efficiency is Paramount. A great racer is not only fit, but also smooth and efficient. The energy saved through skilled bike handling and smooth transitions on and off the bike directly translates into a faster race pace. So, if you’re struggling with the technical aspects of ‘cross (barriers, runups, transitions on and off the bike, general bike handling), take the time each week to practice these skills until they become second nature during a race.
Friday – Travel Day and/ or Openers. The goal of the day is to “prime the engine” for the weekend. Intervals are meant to sharpen, not fatigue.
Saturday/ Sunday – Game ON! Race day! Good reminders to keep in mind on race day. Leading up to your race, it’s important to stay dry. Yet, during your race, keeping your hands and feet warm are critical. Opt for cold weather gloves and booties and shoe covers to keep your hands and feet warm. If you tend to have cold feet, opting for warmer socks may help too. While hard core racers opt to keep their clothing to a minimum, others opt for a few extra comforts including knee warmers, arm warmers, and hats. Once you have finished your race, it’s important to get undressed and get warm. You may consider bringing a few trash bags to stow your cycling kit, cycling shoes, helmet, gloves, socks, and anything else that is soaked and muddy. Also, it’s also a good idea to have on hand your favorite post race nutritional product.
Overall, have fun! Cyclocross is a sport meant to be fun, otherwise, there wouldn’t be beer handoffs, money pits, crowds heckling the pros, or pros heckling the crowd. Unless you’re aiming for World Cup titles, there’s no reason to take this sport too seriously. Train, race hard, but above all, remember that it’s supposed to be fun.
To go tubeless or not tubeless that is the question. Or is it? For anyone who wants higher performance and less flats but doesn’t mind a little extra installation time and maintenance, going tubeless is the best choice. The trick is having the right set up and knowing which bike parts or products to use.
Demonstrated in our recent instruction video, How to use Stans NoTubes by BikeParts.com are step by step instructions to help you go tubeless.
From a performance standpoint, going tubeless is hard to beat. It decreases rolling mass and a tubeless setup will allow you to run a lower tire pressure for better traction without risking pinch flats. A properly installed tubeless tire system is capable of handling any condition and riding style. Aside from our instructional video, following are the bike accessories you’ll need to get started.
See you on the trails!