Over the past few years our coaches have spent the latter part of the winter and spring traveling to training camps and events, and that means talking with a lot of inquisitive athletes. And while every athlete is different, there are some topics that seem to come up every spring. If you can avoid making these 7 common mistakes, you’re bound to have a great season!
1. Thinking Summertime Events Are Far Away
Races and events in mid-June are only three months away. August is only 5 months away! Yes, there’s plenty of time to get in shape and get your training in order, but the sooner you get on it, the stronger you will be and the faster you will be. Blizzards may be dominating the news right now, but Memorial Day will be here in a blink of an eye!
2. Thinking They’ve Already Missed the Boat
Just as some athletes we talk to are still procrastinating about starting their event prep training, we also hear from a lot of athletes who have already thrown in the towel on their season. They figure it’s already April and they’re out of shape, especially compared to some of their buddies who are flying already. Well, it’s not too late. As long as you’re focused and have a solid plan, you can make a ton of progress in as little as 75-90 days. This is especially true for time-crunched athletes who have a lot of years of endurance sport experience. Those years of experience will make regaining fitness easier and faster. You may be slow and easily winded now, but you could still build race-winning fitness by summertime!
3. Hitting the Throttle Too Hard at the Sign of Warm Weather
We see this one every single year. The weather breaks and the sun comes out, and athletes immediately go from riding 3-4 times a week to 6-7 days a week. I admire their enthusiasm and don’t want to squelch it, but piling on volume and intensity before you’re ready for it means you’re digging a hole now that could take a month to get out of later. Remember, the warm weather is going to be around for a long time. It will be warm for so long that in 6 months you’re going to looking forward to cool fall afternoons. Stick with the training plan or coaching program you’re on; if you’re eager to spend more time in the warm sun, make some of your endurance workouts longer, rather than adding more workouts into your week.
4. Failing to Properly Adjust Hydration to the Spring Heat
Over the winter you became accustomed to training outdoors in cooler temperatures. You adjusted your fluid intake because the cool air helped to keep your core temperature under control. But every year we hear from athletes who overheat on their first workout or event on a hot spring day. Just as you have to acclimate to heat when you travel to a warmer environment you have to acclimate again to exercising in higher temperatures. Even though the temps outside might only be in the 60s or 70s right now, that’s 20-30 degrees higher than what you’re acclimated to! That’s a big difference, and it takes some time to adjust. Be aware of you hydration status and plan to take in more fluids. And just like you would when traveling to a warmer environment, take it relatively easy on the first few hot spring days to let your body acclimate.
5. Thinking it Is Too Early in the Season for Workouts at and Above Lactate Threshold
The decision on whether high-intensity training is or isn’t a good idea is not based on the time of year, it’s based on your current level of fitness and the amount of training volume you can accommodate in your lifestyle. We work with a lot of time-crunched athletes who can only train 4 days a week, which means they automatically have 3 recovery days each week. They can afford to incorporate more intensity, and they need to in order to get in enough workload to see improvements.
6. Thinking They Have to Lock in All Their Events Right Now
There’s always a flurry of activity early in the spring as athletes register for summer events and races. That’s great, it gives athletes a set of goals to guide their training. But if you’re not entirely sure what you want to do in August or September, don’t sweat it right now. Focus on building as big an aerobic engine as you can, because that gives you flexibility later on. The philosophy we take with our athletes is that if you have great fitness you can always back down the workload or shift the focus of training to adjust for a change in your event schedule. But if you’re behind on fitness, you have less flexibility.
7. Trying to Lean Out Too Fast
We (CTS) have been making a big push recently with the Raceweight Weight Loss Program, because we know this is the time of year when athletes are trying to get down to a faster race weight. That program takes a balanced, performance-oriented approach to weight loss, which means you lose one, maybe two, pounds per week. What you don’t want to do is what a lot of athletes tell me they are doing, and that’s starvation training, radical diets, and bizarre supplementation. Yes, weight loss may be beneficial for some (not all) athletes, but excessively rapid weight loss is nearly always detrimental to training performance.