It’s that time of year. Whether your season has closed or not you are inevitably starting to think about 2022 and what next season could bring.
While I am known for the philosophy of 'reaching further', it's important to say that not all seasons have to contain stretch goals. Sometimes it’s smart to consolidate. Sometimes it’s smart to take a step back so you can take a step forward. My 2017 season is a prime example of that.
Everyone has their own process and influences, however, here are some tips from the TJB vault that you may find useful.
1. Take the time to consider your goals. Are your goals personal or competitive e.g., do you want to complete a certain race, do you want to aim for a certain time or do you want to be on the podium? Are your goals of a fitness or health nature e.g., do you want to lose body fat, increase heart health? Are your goals related to a certain life context e.g., do you have a big birthday coming up or do you need a goal to jumpstart one area in your life? Are your 2022 goals a stepping stone to a larger goal or a one-off?
Ask yourself numerous questions until you find the ones that matter to you. Once you do prioritise them, this will help you align your season with what really matters.
2. Map out your preparation according to your goals. The whole point is to achieve what you set out to achieve and learn something in the process. You do that when you prepare correctly. It is in the area of preparation where I see the most well intentioned mistakes. An example - people ride excessive miles to prepare for a distance they’ve never done before. Distance requires distance of course but are those miles real training miles or simply fatigue or injury inducing miles? Another example - many people ride with great inefficiency losing speed and energy in every mile . You may find that your 2022 preparation involves becoming a more efficient rider as well as a faster rider.
Countless marketing messages will tell you and sell you what they think you need to achieve your goals. It's a much better idea to assess yourself as objectively as possible or ask your coach to do so. Only then can you create a thoughtful, training map that will navigate you to your season as prepared as possible.
3. Assign the correct amount of time to make the gains you want. Performance gains take cumulative cycles of training stimulus and recovery, training stimulus and recovery. It’s not one, long, hard push and it’s also not a mad rush to the first start line.
Effective time management is a crucial skill in seasonal success. There is always enough time if it is used correctly.
4. Nutrition has to align with performance goals. Nutrition supports training but more importantly supports training adaptation. Always remember that training supplies the stimulus for growth but nutrition provides the building blocks that the body needs to get stronger and increase capacity.
It’s a shame to put focused effort into training and leave gains on the table through poor nutrition.
5. Be strategic around rest. Rest is an overlooked training session. Take sleep seriously. Take at least one day off a week and plan additional rest following periods of high-stimulus training. And please, please, please rest when you plan to rest. It’s so easy to busy-up.
The golden rule is if you train hard, rest hard. Season 2022 will thank you for it.
6. Motivation may wax and wane but purpose doesn’t. It’s important to stay connected to the bigger ‘why’. Training mind-set is often overlooked. There are numerous strategies to pull on when the big obstacles of ‘what’s the point’, ‘I just don’t want to”, ‘I don’t care anymore’, ‘It doesn’t really matter’ show up, which they will.
This kind of inner dialogue shows up for all of us, it’s how we deal with it that makes the difference.
7. Develop daily routines that support your goals. What are the cues and habits that make your training easier to get to or achieve? Little habits done every day lead to big changes . For example, I need 30-mins of seemingly mindless puttering before I get on the trainer. It’s easy to judge the ‘mindlessness’ from the outside but I’m preparing my mind for what I am about to ask my body to do. That routine makes training efficient for me. For you it may be preparing your clothes the night before a big ride or it may be coming downstairs and seeing your bike standing waiting.
8. Set yourself some relevant short-term performance goals. Long winters can be hard to cross so it’s important to put some performance milestones in place to maintain momentum. Reward yourself when you achieve them - a new piece of kit always works for me!
9. Use correctly sized equipment. I see folks take out a winter bike that doesn’t fit them properly. I get that you want to save your race bikes for better weather but training on a bike that doesn’t fit leads to injuries and that’s the biggest season buster of all.
10. Say your goals out loud or write them down. It’s up to you to hold yourself accountable but it helps to be held accountable by people who care about you achieving your goals. None of this has to be onerous. It's the perfect time of year to sit back for a few weeks, while you keep the legs moving, and have a good look at the landscape.
We live in a culture that's quick to tell you what to strive for, which goals have merit and which ones do not.
You're the athlete. Ultimately no-one knows you better than you do. It's your season. What do you want?