These days, we have all the fitness data we can throw a stick at, giving us real time feedback on each performance. Great, I here you say! But is this potentially having a detrimental impact on you and your training?
I often hear many riders consistently talking about chasing targets, KOMS QOMS, improved threshold power; turning cycling into a numbers game. Whilst these tools are superb for us geeks that love to review and study performance data, (which is so wonderfully presented) there can also be a downside.
The Good Bits
Measurement – The ability to measure our cycling/running/swimming performance very accurately gives us feedback on our training success almost instantly…happy days!
Motivation – When you see PBs popping up and FTP’s increasing, it demonstrates and confirms that we are improving.
If you’re not measuring your performance, how can you determine if you are improving?
A sense of community has been created on many of the fitness tracking platforms almost like a sporting social media page. It’s a great way to see what your friends have been up to, increases your motivation, especially if you’re having a lull…let’s face it, it happens to us all!
KOMS QOMS, Leader boards, training stats and numbers are being used to tune into that competitive streak we all have.
So, all good stuff. All our hard work is paying off and we can easily see our data moving in the right direction. All’s good in the world…or is it?!
The No So Good Bits
PB chasing – Unfortunately many cyclists fall into this trap of constantly wanting to achieve PB’s every time they ride, giving reassurance that we are improving. In reality, each ride is ridden with this “subconscious” PB goal in mind.
The problem with this is that it isn’t conducive with a structured training plan. It’s not feasible to ride every ride at your fastest pace, the harder you ride consecutively, the more you fatigue, and so resulting in slower times. It really is a vicious circle!
This can result in demotivation, riding in what I call, a grey zone. I see it so often, riders don’t ride hard enough on a hard day and easy enough on an easy day, resulting in minimal progression and just riding somewhere in the middle…Sometimes to go faster you need to go slower.
Generally speaking, a structured plan will have blocks of say 4 weeks base training, 4 weeks strength training and 4 weeks speed training. During these periods, even though you are training hard, the data and times quite often won’t reflect this. As you increase the training load, performance does drop off as you fatigue, it’s totally normal and makes sense. For example, once you reduce the training load working on speed, your performance will increase. It is having the patience to stick with it and not become frustrated or demotivated from your stats – “I’ve never trained so hard and I’m getting slower”.
For me, this is where the importance of a coach comes into play. If you are serious about training, I would definitely recommend a coach to prevent you from falling into these traps and to keep you motivated. It takes all the guess work out of training – Am I working too hard? Am I not training enough? Am I over trained?
Once you are in this grey zone of continually trying to beat your last PB, (or trying to beat your friend’s PB) it can become extremely de-motivating. “Why was I so quick 2 months ago? What’s different?” Essentially, all you are doing is becoming more and more fatigued without allowing your body to recover. It’s human nature to view this in a negative light, unfortunately it will only be re-affirmed the longer you stay in this grey zone of training.
It’s very hard to step away from all the figures especially as many cyclist think how quick you can climb a hill is a measure of how good a cyclist you are…crazy, crazy, crazy! Generally, a 65kg rider will climb quicker than an 80kg rider but does that make him a better rider?!
Look at the ride as a whole in conjunction with your effort/power and ask yourself these questions – Are you becoming more efficient? Are you improving? Has your average pace increased? How did it feel? And more importantly, did you enjoy it!? Yes, you heard right…Enjoyment!
Use the tools like Strava, Zwift, Training Peaks, Garmin Connect etc. to help you train smarter and monitor the impact of your training, but please avoid chasing PBS or bettering your friends’ times or even worrying about what your friends are doing. I have a friend who gets so miffed that he is not the quickest of the group up the climbs, but the reality is, he is the strongest rider in that group and is always back first by a long chalk on a sportive ride. This completely demotivates him and somewhere along the way, he seems to have lost the enjoyment factor of riding with friends.
By virtue of a Garmin failure, I was left ‘naked’ for 2 weeks with no data and no digital feedback on my rides. At first it was weird, but very quickly I adapted. When I felt good, I pushed hard and when I didn’t, I went easy and the secondary effect was that my enjoyment level increased. I’ve rekindled my love for running and along with the cycling, I have trained with ‘feel’ for 2 weeks and I’ve absolutely loved it. I’m not saying ditch the Garmin or the Wahoo, especially if in training, but I can highly recommend going ‘naked’ even if it’s just for a couple of rides and get back to the basics of why you run or cycle…It’s truly refreshing!
So, just some food for thought peeps! Remember…the key is to keep focused on what your goals are and not others!