Weekend Reading: Why Getting Dropped Makes You Better

As I walked outside earlier this week for our 4-hour Staff Meeting group ride, I realized I was in for a tough day. Standing out there were pros Danny Pate (Team Sky), Kelli Emmett (Giant), Fernando Riveros (Rotor), and Kalan Beisel (Orbea-Tuff Shed). We were just going out for a moderate-pace group ride and it wasn’t going to be a throttle-fest, but I’m 53 years old and long way from their level of fitness.

The first two hours of the ride, I felt fine. No problems. But then I started having to dig a little deeper to stay on the wheel over the rolling hills. And over the course of the next 30 minutes, the effort required to hold the pace grew harder and harder. By the time I rolled up to the door of the office, I was pretty well shattered. It was probably the hardest ride I’d done in the past four months. But it was also the most satisfying ride of the past four months.

Endurance sports are about suffering. If you want to get better, you have to be prepared to be uncomfortable. You don’t necessarily get better when it’s easy to stay on the wheel; you’re getting better when you can barely hang on to it. When you have to dig deep – both mentally and physically – to get through an interval or stay in the group, that’s when you’re doing the work that counts.


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One of the most important things I teach my coaching staff is to create a series of experiences that challenge their athletes. And I don’t just mean interval sets that get progressively harder, because while those are necessary for improving an athlete’s physiology, they don’t necessarily teach them how and when to dig deep. Fighting to stay on a wheel or – better yet – throwing everything you have into breaking away, helps an athlete break new ground in terms of their capabilities.

Over the past twenty years of working with athletes using power meters, time and again I’ve seen athletes achieve new max power numbers in events and training rides when they’ve gotten dropped or just barely hung on. But those experiences often flip a switch for them, because they realize they can actually go harder than they thought they could. And once they’ve done it once, they can do it again, and again. For a lot of athletes the fitness and power are already there, you just have to learn how to access all of it.

The truth is, I had grown complacent. Over the past few months I’ve been riding my bike and doing interval workouts, but not putting myself in truly challenging situations. I think a lot of athletes experience the same complacency, especially during this time of year. And that’s why Tuesday’s ride was so satisfying. It was exhausting, and exhilarating. Struggling reminded me how to fight and that being in the fight feels good.

So this week my message for you is that it’s time to shake things up. If you’ve been riding the same old comfortable group rides or the same old comfortable routes, it’s time to jump into a faster, harder environment. Instead of being the fast guy in your group, find a group where you’re the slow guy. Give yourself the opportunity to fight to keep up. Use the experience to reinvigorate your training and perhaps discover that you’re more powerful than you thought you were.

Have a Great Weekend!
Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach
Carmichael Training Systems

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