If I could go back in time knowing what I know now, there’s a few things I would do differently as a young aspiring cyclist. I’m not saying I have any regrets nor would anything be different now, I’m just saying that it would have been nice if it didn’t take me so many years to get some things through my thick head.
A few things that would have made me a better cyclist when I was in my prime are:
1. Learn about nutrition and the importance it plays in performance.
2. Learn about hydration and how the role it plays in performance.
3. Train aggressively, race conservatively.
4. Fitness takes place when you are resting, not when you are training. If you don’t rest, you won’t get the proper muscle adaptation and recovery to gain fitness. There’s a fine line, and more often than not I would be erring on the side of being overtrained.
5. To the point above, tackle all performance enhancement from the recovery end of things. I spent so much time looking for a “magic pill” that I could have or do before the race or training ride. No such thing – that’s legal at least. All performance gains are realized from proper nutrition and other things you do at the recovery end of your training.
6. Periodize your training. After you get the basics down you’ll understand the principles and realize your potential much more quickly. However, I would not call periodized training “fun”. It’s lots of very specific and individualized workouts. If you can’t make this enjoyable then stay away from it.
7. Train using a powermeter and learn how to interpret and use the data.
8. All those cold wet days that I spend out on the bike proving how tough I was did not do a thing except make me sick. I’m not an ounce stronger because of those days I chose to suffer out there.
9. Get some track experience and do lots of racing on the track. There’s good reason why Australian cyclists are so successful. The track played a major role in their development – from fitness and technique to race tactics.
10. In a race, position counts for everything when things get tough (i.e. crosswinds, hills, sprints finishes, etc). I would have liked to have fast tracked the experience it takes to learn this. The more you race, the quicker you’ll pick up on this.
11. Surround yourself with positive and motivating training partners and never join a team for the sole reason of the free stuff you’ll get. The free stuff is always the most expensive stuff you’ll ever receive. You’ll be much better off riding with a team of cyclists you enjoy being around and have the same goals as you. Those memories will last forever, but that free bike you got will be sold next season. If you find a good combination of both, even better.
All this is easier said than done. It comes with experience and sometimes it takes years before you’ll even begin to realize what you don’t know. I still learn something almost every time I go for a ride or race. I could probably write a post like this once a year. Never get so high on yourself that you stop watching and learning. It’s half the fun!
What do you wish you knew?