Last weekend I was in Washington, DC for a great American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure event and I had a chance to talk with a lot of athletes. I love working one-on-one with the athletes I personally coach, but I also love getting out of Colorado Springs to ride and interact with athletes of all ability levels at events around the country. I talk to a lot of athletes who are doing great things, but I also get more perspectives on the challenges, myths, and misconceptions that prevent people from moving forward with their fitness. On the plane back to Colorado, I boiled those perspectives down to four habits I believe are hurting a lot of people’s training.
Hurtful Habit #1: Thinking there’s an ‘off season’
The original theory behind an ‘off season’ was that athletes needed a prolonged recuperation period following a heavy training and competition season. What really happens is you lose a big chunk of the fitness you spent all season building. Time-crunched athletes have to work very carefully to improve performance in the first place, why would it make any sense to give up your gains just because the leaves on the trees are changing colors? Your training goals may change because of the seasons of the year, but ceasing training now is just a bad idea. Not even pros do that anymore. For the vast majority of amateur athletes, your workload has not been high enough to warrant a prolonged recuperation period. And if you’d like to be stronger next season than you were this year, the next four months are where you make the gains that will make that progress possible!
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Hurtful Habit #2: Stuffing yourself after workouts
I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating because we’re heading into the timeframe where people start packing on the pounds: your 60-90 minute workout doesn’t mean you can eat a whole pizza, no matter how hard your intervals were. At the high end, you might expend 1000 calories in an hour during a hard interval workout, but more likely it’ll be 700-850. And remember, you started the workout with approximately 1200-1600 calories of stored carbohydrate energy in your body. Yes, you need to eat a post-exercise meal (I’m not advocating any post-workout fasting), but you don’t need to gorge yourself. And even if you’re doing big late-season rides, do yourself a favor and go a little lighter on the post-ride meals. Weight you gain now is just weight you have to work off later, and that has always seemed like a waste of effort to me. I’d rather use those efforts for improving fitness.
Hurtful Habit #3: Staying in your comfort zone
Just like anyone else, I have my favorite rides and events. But I also stretch myself to take on challenges that push me outside my comfort zone. This year, the Dirty Kanza 200 was one of those events. Even after 40 years on a bike, I’d never done a 200-mile race, much less one on remote gravel roads in Kansas. I’m not saying you have to abandon your favorite events, but I think you should use the events you’re comfortable with as preparation for events that stretch your limits. You did a century this year, push for a hillier one next year. You did a cross-country mountain bike race this year, try a mountain bike stage race or 100-miler in 2014. And while I mostly look at the positive, aspirational side of pushing your limits, this has also been a year when I’ve seen friends and fellow athletes suffer significant and life-altering events. Their experiences have reminded me that there will be a time when circumstances conspire to limit your range or activity level; maximize your capability and your experiences while you’re healthy and have the time!
Hurtful Habit #4: Prioritizing equipment over knowledge
Everyone has a budget and we all have to make decisions about where to spend our money. A new set of aero wheels might save you 20 watts at 25mph, but if you’re already riding aero wheels then the incremental benefit of new ones will probably be even smaller. On the other hand, when I review performance reports with my coaches, I routinely see improvements of 30-50 watts at lactate threshold during a year. And weight losses of 10-20 pounds. For my money, more watts and less weight will improve your performance way more than any piece of equipment you can buy. It’s not just my personal bias toward coaching; the numbers prove my point. You can work with a CTS coach for 12 months for less than $2000, and if you look at it from a dollars-per-watt-gained perspective, I think coaching is the best value out there.
So, this weekend here’s what I want you to do: Go out for a big adventure and use that late-summer fitness you have! When you get back, think about what you’re eating. Do you really need all of it, or are you overcompensating for the work you actually did? And while you’re relaxing, search for some new and exciting events you can take on this fall or in 2014. My coaches and I will be here when you’re ready to take your performance to the next level!
Have a Great Weekend!
Carmichael Training Systems