I’ll admit it. I have a training spreadsheet. I enter hours and the type of workout I do ever day. Some Excel wizardry adds it up for me. I can plan out a week or two, aim to have certain types of workouts on certain days.
This puts me firmly in the realm of “highly obsessive” compared to non-cyclists, and “slacker/ignoramus” to real training nerds who talk about wattage, zones, times, and whatnot.
It’s hard not to acknowledge the importance of taking into account some basic training science. Joel Friel’s The Cyclist’s Training Bible has, in accordance with its audacious title, become the book of note. Its best feature is that one can get absorbed at different levels. You can train with power, heart rate, and zones. You can plan certain exercises for certain days – six months in advance. Or you can distill for yourself a few basic lessons, and work from there. I decided I needed to improve my force and muscular endurance while ensuring adequate level of aerobic endurance. From there I just planned to ramp up my volume conscientiously, in accordance with the Massachusetts weather improving from December’s constant 20-degree days. Different levels.
It’s a long way from the old standard of racing one’s self into shape, even if I’m on the tip of the iceberg. From Joe Parkin‘s blog is an excerpt about his training plan. He was of the old-school method: race a bunch and watch your fitness improve. His conclusion, however, is one that amateur racers might find very important:
In my final years as a pro (on the mountain bike side of the sport) I definitely employed some of the new training techniques and found them to be an enormous leap forward from what I knew. If I had it to do over again, I have no doubt that I would have been a better bike racer because of them. What would have gotten to me, however, was the constant solitude that so many of the current crop of racers have to endure.
As I look to the season I need to remind myself to find important balances in my life. It’s easy to burn out, especially for one only a few seasons deep into the physical demands of bike racing. It’s easy to blow off friends and family under the assumption that they’ll always be around, but the bike season is ephemeral.
But one needs only look at the many extremely successful amateur elder statesmen and -women of our sport, the masters who’ve been racing at high levels for decades, to remember that the bike season isn’t ephemeral: it comes around again and again, and there’s always time for more bike racing. Your love affair with the whistle, the pack, and the finish line can be a very long one indeed. No need to make too many sacrifices too early, lest you get too accustomed to them.