By: Cycle U Coach Heather Nielson
Making any kind of change to a routine is scary for anyone. There’s a level of comfort that goes with the predictability & expectation of the outcomes from following habits & routines in everything we do on a daily basis. Humans are creatures of habit. The advantage to sticking to routines are many and not limited to the aforementioned; but there are also some disadvantages. It’s always worth trying something new if it will make you faster, healthier & smarter but, like most things in life, it’s all about timing.
There are so many topics I could cover when it comes to how, when & why to make changes to one’s training, racing, nutrition, equipment, coaching, teams, clothing, riding style etc as well as what not to do, but that list is obviously too long for one article; so I’ll just talk about some general rules that I’ve found apply across the board.
Levi’s Grand Fondo October 2013
First, if you’re thinking about making multiple changes
(i.e. you want to experiment with a different tire brand and a new pair of shoes and try solid fuel during your group ride rather than just liquid/gel nutrition), I would suggest changing one thing at a time if at all possible. My scientific background has taught me the reliability of ‘data’ gathered from changing only one part of your ‘experiment’ at a time, then waiting for awhile to see what happens. Utlimately, you know your body and equipment better than anyone, so use your best judgement & trust your gut. Additionally, try one (or a few) changes more than just once/during one ride and ideally under different conditions. Finally: never ever ever EVER try something new on race/competition day, for all the obvious reasons.
The recreational/amateur athlete has the advantage of not being committed to certain equipment or brands but the disadvantage of having to front all the cost. On the other extreme, the professional athlete oftentimes has the huge advantage of receiving ‘free’/reduced cost equipment & services. The professionals have earned their sponsorships for a good reason: they get results, they represent their team & sponsors well, they stay committed to their training and racing programs; and on race day, just like any other ‘desk’ job, they do their job and don’t make excuses. The amateur cyclist has greater flexibility in choosing when and what changes to make to equipment, nutrition, training plans, etc while the professional is more or less committed to certain brands, race days, teammates, coaches/directors etc. And just like any other ‘professional’, the athlete has also been doing what they do for a long time and so have become comfortable with equipment, training & nutrition that they trust & can predict how it will perform, wear down & digest. The ability of the professional athlete to adjust to new equipment, team & locations between seasons is a whole other skill set & psychological strength that also takes time to develop.
Whether you’re a professional athlete or not, paying attention to your body, equipment and taking good care of both will give you an advatange during any day on the bike. Those who are tuned into their bodies, take care of their equipment, make changes one at a time and not on race day or important training rides will be able to determine quicker which changes helped, slowed them down or were more or less neutral. Make notes in your trianing diary, watch for trends & patterns, communicate with your coach, teammates & director (if necessary) about how you’re feeling, responding to training & any injuries. Lastly, learn to adapt quickly to sub-optimal conditions & equipment, do the best you can. Those who adapt the quickest, evolve the fastest.