The New Year has arrived and this is the perfect time to set new goals and targets. So why don’t you challenge yourself to improve your overall cycling skills and performance?
Here are ten failsafe ways to boost your performance in 2011…
1 – Take responsibility for your own training
Take the bull by the horns and be proactive. January 1 is a great time to start changing any bad habits. If you are a “reactive cyclist” then it’s time to change.
It’s always tempting to blame others when things don’t work out the way you want.
In these instances you are being reactive and that is simply a negative attitude that will hinder you from reaching your goals. Being proactive is about taking responsibility – don’t talk, just do it.
If you take responsibility, you will achieve a lot more success. Being positive has several side effects. For example, it’s better to try to make your group rides attractive instead of complaining about why so few people join them. Make sense?
2 – Apply the 80/20 principle to your cycling training
I always like to use the analogy of the financial world. You invest in training time and you get a strong rate of return in cycling performance.
Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto made a rule about investments: the basic principle is to focus your effort on the 20% that is responsible for 80% of your results.
But how can you apply the 80/20 principle to your cycling training in 2011?
Well, take a look at your training in the past year. Think of the days that had the most positive impact on your future performance. Examine those days in detail. Why were they the best?
It is not a difficult task to highlight the most challenging workouts but these are the most crucial to successful optimization with regards time effectiveness and successful training planning for 2011.
3 – Every ride should have a purpose
I always urge my riders to have a purpose with all their training sessions. It is not just about interval days and race days. I want to make them stronger and better cyclists every day. If they’re on a recovery day, it’s a great opportunity to practise some technical skills, which do not require physical power.
You could, for example, improve your cornering and recovery in the same ride. Bin the junk miles and give every session a real focus.
4 – Sleep more
This may sound obvious but one of the healthiest things in life is to sleep well. Most people don’t get enough sleep and their health suffers as a result.
For cyclists, lack of sleep will cause fatigue and affect performance. As a cyclist, sleeping is a crucial part of the recovery process. Try to get at least 7 to 8 hours sleep each night.
5 – Eat better and time your post-exercise meal
Good nutrition is vital to performance and recovery.
When considering post-exercise nutrition, always have a recovery drink immediately after exercise. Then you should consume 1g of carbohydrate per kg and 1/3g protein per kg of body weight within 30 minutes of finishing moderate to high intensity training sessions.
The post-exercise drink is extremely important and is an opportunity to use legal doping since you benefit from the insulin boost you get when you drink both carbohydrate and protein. Insulin is an anabolic hormone that helps you rebuild glycogen stores and muscles after training sessions.
If you don’t get energy immediately after exercise then you maintain the catabolic status and delay the recovery process.
6 – Analyze your training sessions
Take some time to reflect. What did you achieve in 2010 and how did you achieve it? What were the highlights and downsides?
Analyzing your performance in the past 12 months will make your workouts even stronger in 2011.
If you have access to power meter or heart rate monitor data, you should also spend some time analyzing the metrics from your key workouts, performance tests and races in 2010.
7 – Include power meter training
Power meter training is a growing phenomenon. It’s easy to do and the single most effective way to monitor progress.
There is one significant reason that I strongly recommend power meters: it makes it possible to precisely control the workload during interval training, making sure that the right physiological skills get trained. If you don’t have a power meter, make it a priority to at least experiment with one during 2011.
8 – Prioritize high intensity intervals
There is no doubt in my mind that training with high intensity is the most time effective way to improve your performance. Elite and professional riders need to train at (or very close to) VO2 max to make further progress.
When you give the highest priority to your interval training, it’s also much more likely to be successful.
Try to perform intervals as the most important part of your ride. Making interval training the most important thing will put it above achieving your planned distance, joining a social group ride or even taking part in a race.
9 – Make your training as specific as possible
What are the decisive parts of a race that you are preparing for? A hill? A sprint finish? A basic rule of solid cycling training is to focus your training on what you are aiming for during a race.
If you make your training more specific, your body will receive the optimal physiological improvements for the specific event you have in mind. So, for example, if you want to take part in a hilly race, you should train on courses that have undulating profiles.
10 – Make your 2011 cycling training plan now
The fastest way to improve as a cyclist without working harder is by adding some structure to your training. Following and sticking to a training plan is a simple but effective approach and it pays off quickly.
Riders often believe that they feel stronger because of the special combination of intervals that I devise for them but, to be honest, the more likely explanation is that they simply have some structure to their training program.
If you are a hard-working cyclist, you deserve to achieve the best possible results with the work you do.
You don’t (necessarily) have to train more or harder to achieve better results.
If you achieve the right structure with proper amounts of interval training on the right days, there is a good chance that you will improve quickly and continue doing so.
And the best part is that you won’t have to spend more time away from your family or friends to achieve this progress.
If you haven’t got a training plan for 2011, you can try one of the free cycling training programs here on Training4cyclists.com or, even better, use the detailed 16-week training program included in my recently published e-book, Time Effective Cycling Training.
11 – Do the little extra it takes to succeed
Yes, I know this is supposed to be 10 Steps for Better Cycling Performance in 2011, but I’ve included point 11 to highlight that sometimes it can pay off to go the extra mile. Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper into your reserves when you train. The saying is “no pain, no gain” and there’s no doubt a bit of suffering can go a long way if you want to beat the opposition.