This is the first of a new biweekly training column series by Hannah Finchamp, a professional racer with the Orange Seal Off-Road Team and a USA Cycling certified coach.
The Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented experience. As experts and government officials are desperately trying to mitigate illness, many people are struggling financially and emotionally. Meanwhile, cyclists all over the world are mourning the loss of races, goals that won’t be achieved, and the uncertainty surrounding training. While most athletes realize that there are much bigger issues than a canceled bike race, it’s hard to not let the disappointment of lost events cloud one’s motivation to train.
When training for specific goals dictate daily routines, questions begin to reach the surface. What’s the point in training if there are no races? What should I be focusing on? How can I stay motivated?
Scientists use experiments to determine the proper approach to different scenarios. In the same way, coaches use data from earlier experiments and research to formulate the best training strategies for athletes. Since the Covid-19 pandemic has never happened before, there is no tried and true approach, however, there are a few different tactics you can employ based on best practices.
If your main race was canceled, the first thing you should do is set a new goal. This could be approached in a few ways. If all of the races you planned to do have been wiped from the calendar, then search for a race that might happen in the fall. Focus will give purpose to your training.
If your race was postponed, but is so far away that you are struggling to find the drive to train, then consider setting a short-term performance goal. This might be a power test or an endurance challenge. Right now, many elite athletes are demonstrating this type of goal setting by chasing after an “Everesting” challenge.
Finally, don’t forget about your process goals. Process goals are small details that an individual can focus on daily. These are things that will ultimately help you reach an outcome or performance goal and can be as simple as stretching for 10 minutes a day.
Take a break
If your main goal is still months away, it might be time for a little mid-season break. The main reason to hit pause is to allow both your mind and body a time to rebuild and come back stronger. Training will not be as productive if you have to drag yourself out of the door every day. It would be better to take a week or two off of the bike or to dedicate time to unstructured fun rides.
Back to base
Many athletes are taking a step back to base training. Base training includes long endurance miles and is generally the first phase in an athlete’s training cycle. Base training sets a foundation on which higher intensity workouts can be built. Since base training is lower intensity, you are often better able to sustain base training and build large amounts of fitness without injury, peaking too early, or burn out.
If your race has been pushed back several months, but you still feel motivated to train and improve before your event, going back to base might be a good option for you.
Eventually races will happen again and if approached properly this time of delay can be used to improve and get to the start line even stronger in the future. If you feel fully motivated and your race was only pushed back a month or two then you might choose to keep building. If your A race was slated for August and now you are targeting a late September race, a few small adjustments might be all that you need. Stay focused and keep charging toward your goal.
Listen to yourself
No matter what strategy you pick, now is a time to listen to your body and mind. There is no particular way that you ‘should’ be feeling. Allow yourself the space to process your feelings and your training will only benefit from the introspection. We’re all in this together.