Stress-o-Holics R Us
It’s a fact of life that we take on more responsibility as we “grow up”. Have you ever been in this situation? You’re at work, its 4:40PM and you’re still in a meeting that’s running late. The sun sets at 7:40PM and by the time you were planning on leaving work at 5 you could just squeeze in your mid-week workout if the traffic wasn’t too bad. As the meeting drags on your stress levels rise to the point where you are steaming mad and become resentful of your job. Gone are those carefree days where we could ride, eat, sleep and repeat ad infinitum! How do we fit in our passion around our responsibilities without stressing out?
Much research has gone into studying the effects of stress on elevating cytokines and psychoneuroimmunology (fancy word for how it affects your brain). Then there’s the overload of training and non-training stress that leads to overtraining and burnout, but that’s another Toolbox for another day. What I’m talking about today is stress management. A successful cyclist of any ability will find balance in his or her life. We all lead a rewarding life (we hope!) off the bike and keeping it that way will lead to greater performances on the bike. Control the variables you can and let the others roll off your back. We’re supposed to be doing this for fun!
Time Management Basics
Just as there’s more than one way to design a training program there’s more than one way to train and race while minimizing the impact life’s stress has upon your performance.
Plan Long-Term. One of the best things about smart training and developing a long-term plan is that you can see well in advance the time you will need to devote to your training. Knowing that you have a hard interval workout on Wednesday but a recovery day the next goes a long way in scheduling other aspects of your life. Put off errands on days you are crunched to ride and use your recovery days to take care of your dry cleaning and bike shop repair visits. Even more so you can schedule business trips during your recovery weeks and try to keep a light schedule for your hard training blocks.
Set Realistic Goals. You’re likely not training for the Tour de France and your training plan shouldn’t look like it either. With consistent training day in and day out you can make significant progress in as little on the bike time as 5-8 hours a week. If you’re limited to one or two workouts during the week, select racing goals that are conducive to your limited training time. Time trials and criteriums fit perfectly into these parameters because most are an hour or less. If the state championship time trial is your top goal, design your two mid-week workouts around the specifics of time trials. Use the weekend road and criterium races to round out your training.
Assign Priorities. Try waking up early and completing your workout before work and before the day’s stress has started. Have your bike ready and waiting in the morning, lay out your clothes, food, and water bottles in advance. If you are the type to bail once the alarm clock rings have your spouse force you to get up 🙂 Not a morning person? Try it once and tell me its not nice sitting at work, knowing that you’ve already got your training in for the day and when its time to go home you get to do just that without rushing.
Make Your Intentions Known. Earn support for your goals from the ones who demand the most of your time. Seek out support, in a non-antagonistic way, from your family, friends, and teammates. Let them know your goals and present them with your training plan. It’s a wonderful way to guarantee that you’ll be able to make the Saturday morning group ride. You might have to go shopping for wallpaper later on in the day but you got your ride in right? I used to “post” my training plan on the refrigerator at home and it went a long way towards my relationship with my girlfriend and now wife. She clearly could see when I would be busy riding or when I would be laying on the couch!
Love Your Bike. Nothing cuts into your ride time more than having to fiddle with your bike before a ride. Take care of your bike and it will take care of you. Use your off days to give it the love it deserves. That clean bike waiting for you in the garage will get you out the door much faster than the bike with a flat that needs a derailleur adjustment.
The Big Picture
Whatever causes you stress, recognize the source and seek out ways to minimize its effect on you. Your head will be free and clear during the most difficult moments of your training and racing thereby allowing you to focus on the task at hand – going faster.
Frank is a USA cycling certified Expert coach and category 1 road racer. For the past 8 years he has balanced a career, a relationship and marriage alongside a successful racing hobby in Boulder, CO. For more information on how to get more out of your racing under your current circumstances, visit his website