Making the decision to start training in a structured manner and with a coach watching over you can be some of the best money you’ve spent if you’re looking to fast-track your improvements and fulfil your potential as an athlete (whether you’re a novice or podium finisher).
But as the saying goes ‘what you put in is what you get out’…. your successes are only as good as the commitment from athlete and coach alike, attention to detail and following best practice as far as is possible.
Having worked with athletes from very different backgrounds and with vastly different goals for almost 10 years now, I’ve come to identify some of the common factors that define the highly successful over the moderately successful. And it’s not to say that the highly successful ones are more talented….it more often than not comes down to who consistently pays attention to the small things and doesn’t let them slip over time.
So what are some of the pitfalls that athletes can fall into unwittingly that can potentially sabotage their training and ultimately full success?
- Not having clear goals that are updated and communicated frequently: without clear goals there is lack of planning, and with lack of planning comes inarticulate structure. Coaches understand that life throws curveballs and can often derail certain pre-determined paths, but as long as the coach is kept informed, new goals can be factored in and planning restructured accordingly.
- Making ‘ad-libs’ to workout plans: workouts are structured in a certain way to achieve a specific physiological outcome, so when target intensities are altered, rest periods shortened or lengthened and sequencing of structure is consistently played with, the whole long-term plan is often compromised. Any changes should always be done in consultation with the coach so that the best alternative is achieved instead.
- Allowing training partners to dictate a workout rather than sticking to your plan: training partners are an indispensable and necessary part of a cyclist’s world, but choosing when to join them and when to rather focus on a target session is an important distinction when working towards a meaningful outcome.
- Avoiding the hard stuff: ‘train your weaknesses, race your strengths’. Working on your weaknesses is always going to be hard but the reward is so much sweeter! Face the tough session with positivity rather than a sense of dread – they can often turn out better than you expect.
- Interrupted consistency: too much time off between workouts does nothing for your build in fitness - there’s not enough cumulative workload to stimulate adaptation. You’ll maintain fitness but you won’t see any improvement. Commitments in other areas of your life can sometimes mean a break in program, but try not to make it a habit. When repeated breaks are unavoidable make use of your coach for advising appropriate alternatives.
- Taking an over-extended ‘timeout’: Any prolonged break from exercise (4 weeks or more) will set you back significantly. You’ll lose baseline aerobic fitness and your power/pace at lactate threshold will diminish. Industry leaders make it well known that you can’t make significant gains year over year when you lose 20% of your hard-earned fitness during a prolonged layoff. Fitness is easier to lose than it is to gain, but it is also relatively easy to maintain. Chris Carmichael says, “You can reduce your training workload by nearly 30%, and as long as you keep some intensity in there you can retain most of your current power at lactate threshold and the vast majority of your aerobic endurance”. This approach works well for those periods between finishing off one goal and looking for another.
- Compromising on your nutrition: you can do all the training in the world but if your nutrition is not backing up the demands you are placing on the body, adaptation and improvement are going to be in short supply! Pick your coaches brain and educate yourself on this topic, and when in an important build to a key event, be disciplined and make this a priority.
Most of the above may seem obvious but sometimes even the most seasoned athlete can start dropping the ball in any one of these areas….and then one drop here can turn into many drops further down the road. Regular contact with your coach will ensure that such potential downfalls will be picked up quickly and focus will be re-directed. And so, it is imperative that communication is regular and meaningful for the coach-athlete relationship to be fruitful.
Di White - Head Coach @ White Inc.