I’m not a “New Year, New You” kind of guy. I absolutely think the New Year is a great opportunity to evaluate what you’re doing well and what needs to be changed, but progress is perpetual. The New Year is a merely a mile marker on a long journey to the best version of you. As we all take steps toward that best version of ourselves, here are four key areas to address in 2019.
Embrace the Moment
At a coffee shop earlier this year I watched a group of riders obsess over a weather app. Would it rain? Where was the wind coming from? What’s the exact temperature? I understand being prepared, but at some point you just have to get on with it. You can’t control the weather or the riders who show up to the group ride or race. Stop worrying about it and embrace the idea that you need to take whatever comes and do the best you can with the tools you have available.
In 2019 make a point of staying in the moment as much as you can. When it comes to training, focus on the hill you’re on instead of the next one down the road. Concentrate on the interval you’re doing and don’t worry about the ones you’ve already done or the ones you have yet to do. Enjoy the meal you’re eating and make the best nutrition choices you can in a given situation. Don’t weigh yourself down with lingering guilt about perceived failures – big or small.
Cook Your Own Food
I enjoy Michael Pollan’s books, and one piece of wisdom I find particularly useful is the idea that people can dramatically improve the quality of their diet by cooking their own meals. He talks about this in more depth in this 2013 presentation. The gist is that when we cook for ourselves we use better ingredients and healthier methods than corporations do when we let them cook for us.
There’s even a difference between using modestly processed ingredients vs. grossly processed ready-to-eat meals. Canned black or garbanzo beans are great. So are frozen vegetables. Fully cooked and sauced chicken-and-pasta meals that come in a convenient microwave-ready bag aren’t as great. In many cases, if you were to make that recipe on your own, you would think twice about the amount of fat, salt, and sugar called for.
Personally, this really hit home for me with macaroni and cheese. It’s not a very healthy meal to begin with, but when you have kids it’s sometimes what you do. When my kids were younger, I decided to make Mac-n-Cheese from scratch. Partway through I was totally disgusted, but also fully committed. Seeing the amount of butter and cheese and salt I was physically adding to the sauce was nauseating. It tasted great, but cooking it made me never want to eat it again.
Cooking your own food is also another way to embrace the moment and be more present in your decisions. You’re taking more control of what you’re putting in your body and how it’s prepared. The resulting meal is more satisfying; it is harder to mindlessly shovel a meal into your face when it is the result of work you’ve done yourself.
Move Your Feet Faster
I’ve been a proponent of cycling with higher cadences for many years, and I still say moving your feet faster is one of the best and simplest ways to generate more power and spread workload between skeletal muscles and the cardiovascular system. When athletes get tired, their cadence slows. If your “cruising” cadence is 80rpm to begin with and gets slower from there, you’re in for a hard grind.
There is no perfect cadence for all cyclists, but I have yet to work with a rider who didn’t benefit from trying to increase the cadence they could comfortably maintain at an endurance pace and the cadence they could sustain during high power efforts.
Training to increase your comfortable and sustainable cadence requires minimal disruption to the training you’re already doing. The adaptation you’re after is primarily neuromuscular, meaning you can achieve it at the same workloads you’re using to develop energy systems. It’s more a matter of being deliberate and making a higher cadence a priority within the rides and intervals you’re already doing. (There are exceptions, however, like intervals that require high torque and low cadence to be effective.)
Train for Strength Year Round
Strength training should not be an off-season addition to your endurance training. Unless your ability to make a living is predicated on how fast you can go uphill, striving to satisfy cycling’s obsession with being light is doing you more harm than good. There’s a balance that needs to be achieved, and year-round strength training is the best way to get there.
Non-professional cyclists over 40 should prioritize being strong as high or higher than being light. And I mean being strong on and off the bike. I mean lower body and upper body and muscles that have nothing to do with going faster on a bicycle. I want you to be the best cyclist you can be, but before that I want you be the best athlete you can be.
Year round strength training will keep you in the game longer. It will reduce the number of cycling-specific training days you miss by making you more prepared for any physical challenge life throws at you. Strength training makes you harder to knock down, literally and figuratively. And as you get older, the cumulative benefits of strength training on muscles, bones, balance, and proprioception help you stay active and vital well after your age mates are confined to the Lazy-Boy… or worse.
Above all, make the commitment to take care of yourself in 2019. The world will blithely stand by and watch as you grind yourself into the ground. There are times and good reasons to put your career and family first, but at the end of the day no one else will prioritize your wellbeing until you do. Let’s do that in 2019!
Have a Happy New Year!
CEO/Head Coach of CTS