Funny, it's the very beginning of the beginning of the season and I'm all ready making excuses. Actually, I prefer to think of them not so much as excuses, but more creative reasoning. I know it's going to be inevitable that I'll get my butt handed to me in many, many races this year. Its to be expected if not somewhat earned as your stripes from moving to the next level of competition. I'm down with that, but in the mean time, I know what I need to make that jump to the next level and I know for the most part, those expectations will probably be left unfulfilled.
Of all the pieces that are missing from the puzzle, the one I have the power left to control easily is my diet. I love crappy food. I love wholesome food as well. I guess I just love food in general. In a sport where your finishing placement is generally predisposed based on how much power you can generate per pound of body mass, light weight is the key. We'll spend hundreds and thousands of dollars shaving grams off our race machines, yet we leave our bodies as a bastion of junk food. My wife has accused me of being a bit obsessive about my weight, but honestly, looking at a broad swath of typical Americans, I think obsession about keeping your weight in check is a virtue millions of people could stand to have. In any case, I just try to keep a good running tally of how the calories I put in are going to be burned off and keep whittling slowly away until I hit what I consider to be a good target race weight. Which in my case also happens to be almost smack dab in the middle of a healthy BMI as well.
My problem is that too large of a portion of my calories come from the un-basic food groups- beer, sweets, and fast-food. Luckily, I ride enough to burn off these calories on a pretty regular basis so they don't tend to stick around as giant fat deposits. However, they certainly don't lend themselves to creating a leaner, meaner version of myself. I really should try harder to adopt healthier eating habits rather than relying too much on my ability to burn the calories off through exercise.
Almost anyone that doesn't get paid to participate in their choice of sport will tell you that training time is a precious commodity. We have friends, families, careers, and a myriad of other time constraints outside of our athletic endeavors. Short of alienating my family completely or sacrificing the very rest I need to keep going at this level, making additional training time will be very tough. I figure roughly 10 hours per week of combined training/racing time is about where I'm at a stasis point of keeping things nicely balanced. I have a suspicion most other people I'm competing with are on similar schedules. It's those individuals with more natural talents to get better results in the same amount of time and/or those that can dedicate substantially more amounts of time (20+ hours per week) that will rise to the top of our fields.
The one area I can and hopefully will use to increase my training time is commuting by bike. I love to ride to work, but I still find too many excuses to not ride in. It takes too much time, I'll be hot and sweaty, I need to go somewhere other than home during/after work, and the list goes on. I'm sure most of you will find these excuses pretty commonplace. In reality though, they're mostly hinderances and not really stopping points. There are relatively easy work arounds for most if not all of these situations for me, but laziness sets in and it's easy to exercise my right foot on the throttle than to gear up for 35 minutes of riding to and from work.
Diversity in training
Its been preached from on high until they're blue in the face that cyclists need some type of diversity in their training. I don't disagree, but for the last year, pretty much all I've done is ride my bike. I think there is a benefit in skill building that will offset training diversity to a degree. That's especially true in mountain biking where your skill at negotiating obstacles and the trail in general will garner you as many seconds as be able to out power another rider will. However, there's also a diminishing return as your skill level increases. Your power and speed have to increase as well for you to have a need to continue raising your skill level.
I have a hard time considering exercise done off my bike as "training" time. I know it's a good thing for me to engage in activities like yoga, core strengthening, and other weight bearing exercise. I just have a hard time justifying taking them up when I feel like I should be on my bike instead. If extra hours were miraculously available to me, I think it would be easier to add them in and round out my complete training schedule in that manner. I may have to do some work on changing my mindset on that issue this year and trading some of my current bike time towards other forms of exercise.
Well, not quite all in a nutshell, but those are the 3 key areas I see mising in my cycling this year. Hopefully reading it helps you identify some of your missing areas as well and motivates you to find creative ways to fill in the blanks.