Progressing as a cyclist or triathlete is easy.
So why do so many struggle to make progress?
Cycling and triathlon are wonderful sports, which many get into in their adult lives. While they give us an outlet that allows us to have a better shot at staying healthy and in good shape, many spend years floundering at the same performance levels, or barely improving. . . All this despite having more technology and shared knowledge than ever before in (known) human history.
Is it really that difficult to improve your fitness (and keep it) as a triathlete or cyclist?
Here are the 5 most common mistakes made, and how to quickl and easily get on the fast track to improvement, and more enjoyment.
1. Others Convince You It's Complicated
From bike technology and apps, to other triathletes, riders, or coaches, everyone seems to have this need to make you feel like a 10 year old kid in a college physics class (No, I’m not talking about a Doogie Howser or Little Sheldon).
Making progress, especially in endurance sports in your first 2-4 season, is actually really easy:
Do the least amount of training to get you the desired training affect, then give the body enough time between training sessions to adapt, along with adequate amounts of nutrition, sleep, and stress management, and VOILA! You’ll see progress faster than you could have ever dreamed.
2. You Don't Learn How To Feel
No, I’m not talking James Van Der Beek kind of feels!
I’m talking about being connected with your body and how it feels on a day to day level, as well as how you feel while practicing a sport.
This feel can only be developed through purposeful, focused practice, something many endurance athletes never learn.
Taking the time to “just ride” and better understand how the bike is moving under you, how the water either helps you along, or fights you, and how to pulse at the exact moment of foot strike on the run, is one of the things that sets many of the best apart.
If you’re looking to get better at a sport, you need to learn how to feel, as this will allow you to begin to dial in on #3 on the easy list.
3. You Don't Take The Time To Learn The Fundamental Skills
Fundamentals, much like the ABC’s, don’t grab our adult attention, riveting us through our rides or runs, and capturing our attention as we look on in awe.
Until you look at the professionals who “make it look so easy”.
Practicing the skills in small, dosed amounts each and every time out the door, is one of the easiest things to do, yet are pretty much ignored or slogged through by the masses.
But when you make the effort to purposefully practice a skill for 10-15 minutes, giving it your full, undivided attention, and intent of getting a little better, you are literally rewiring your body to be able to perform better, with less effort.
These skills include:
- climbing on the bike
- braking on the bike
- cornering on the bike
- running with a relaxed position
- breathing in sync with footstrike
- hand entry angle into the water
- and many more
But these things are not as impressive, on the daily, as almost getting your PR power or moving up 2 spots on strava.
4. You Let Technology Guide You
The vast majority of cyclists and triathletes would progress far more, by following the first 3 steps, and not worrying about Heart rate, Power, or any other fancy metric.
Yet we’ve become so enamored with w/kg, and whatever other metric technology can tell you.
Technology certainly has its role and CAN help you. . . But it’s need comes far later down the road.
Yes, you can and should track- by no means am I saying not to. That information can prove valuable, when approached correctly. But instead of riding with your eyes glued to your bike computer and how many watts you’re putting out, instead, hit record, pop that computer in your back pocket, and learn to train and pace off of feel.
5. You Won't Do The Simple, Boring Things That Matter Consistently
You want to know the secret formula to quickly improving and maximizing your performance as an endurance athlete?
The LEAST amount of training to get you the desired training affect, followed by giving the body what it needs to rebuild, and improve.
- Hitting your nutrition 90% of the time
- Getting a solid 6-8 hours of sleep a night
- Going to bed at a regular bed time, before 10pm
- Resting if your body isn’t feeling good
- Not blowing the doors off on days you feel great
- Being consistent in you training and the above habits
This means you need to immediately (and forever) STOP doing the following:
- Trying to make each session your best session
- Yo-yo dieting
- Staying up late
- HTFU-ing when your body is telling you it needs to rest
- Blowing the doors off when you feel great
- Trying to blow the doors off on days you feel “meh”
- Trying to impress Instagram/Facebook/your High School Crush by posting PR’s or hard workouts to show how hard you’re working
- Being inconsistent
It’s that easy.
This is the Holy Grail of training.
Put more simply:
- Set a realistic training schedule
- Show up
- Do the work, but just enough to get what you need
- Go home
- Sleep, Eat, & Manage Stress
- Repeat this every week for many years
In my nearly 25 years in and around sports I’ve learned a lot. Some lessons I’ve learned the easy way, as I’ve listened and acted on wisdom from coaches and individuals who had a good handle on things. Others, I learned the hard way.
You don’t necessarily need a coach full-time to help you gain fitness, as the interwebs do have a number of sources such as this blog, my YouTube Channel, Podcast, and my first book, that offer you high level coaching concepts either free of for super low cost.
However, you DO need to spend the time to learn the basics. The things everyone tends to zip by in search of the fancier/flashier stuff.
LeBron still spends 10-15 minutes a day practicing basic shooting form and fundamental dribbling skills. So why don’t you spend 10-15 minutes practicing basic cornering, braking, or riding skills?
Show up, do (just enough) work, go home, give your body what it needs to adapt.
Rinse and repeat for a few years in a row.
It’s that simple.