Duathlete Jez Cox helps you discover the strategies that pro cyclists use to re-energise at the end of a tough season.
After a long spring and summer of bike training it can be hard to contemplate your remaining races and the upcoming autumn. With a season’s fatigue setting in and the prospect of shorter days and longer nights you might be tempted to take your foot off the gas. Pro cyclists face the very same challenges as well, but have a few tricks up their sleeves to deal with them. Here are selection of the most effective strategies they use to shake off any weariness and press their physical reset buttons.
1. Mental pre-play, mental replay
In the late 1950s, the Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget developed a technique known as mental pre-play, mental replay. It might sound complex but, in practice, it’s simple and fun. Find some footage of pro bike races or triathlon that features a rider who you’d like to emulate. Watch it carefully and then close your eyes and try to visualise exactly what they look like as they ride. Then watch the footage again and repeat the process two more times. The third time, imagine seeing it from the rider’s perspective and, as soon as possible afterwards, go for a ride and try to keep that footage fresh in your mind. With practice, you should find that mentally ‘replaying’ during the ride what you ‘pre-played’ before it will help you hold better form on the bike and handle it more confidently too. It’s something children do naturally when playing and its effect on the subconscious is remarkably powerful.
2. Non-training training camps
While it’s good to adopt a formulaic training approach based on scientific research, it’s also easy to lose sight of the fact that you should be enjoying it too. Something that pro cyclists have been doing for years is to have a brief, end-of-season period when only new training sessions and routes are allowed. Similarly, they often go on ‘non-training training camps’, such as a weekend away mountain biking where the focus is on enjoyment as much as it is on training for the next season.
3. Become a multi-disciplinarian
Part of British Cycling’s recent dominance on the world stage can be put down to insisting its young athletes take part in at least three cycling disciplines until they’re 18. Only at that point can they decide which one to specialise in. If you have never tried anything other than road and triathlon riding, then you’re preventing yourself from being a more complete rider, and having a lot of fun. Borrowing a cyclo-cross or mountain bike, or even a BMX, at this time of year can be just what’s needed to inject some fun into your routine. Initially feeling hopeless at a new style of riding is a good thing, as it makes you appreciate just how far you’ve come with your normal riding.
4. Keep accelerating
One physical component that pro riders can lose during a long season is known as ‘snap’. That is, the ability to accelerate quickly and react to an attack or sudden change of pace. Not only is snap useful for training and racing, but it also forms part of the bigger physiological picture that will make you a strong triathlon cyclist. An informal points race is a great way to get snap back. In a group of three or more riders, use a scoring system whereby the last person past a designated landmark (eg a signpost) scores one point and the points increase all the way up to first place. Sprint as safely as you can for each landmark but the cardinal rule is that you aren’t allowed to change gear once the sprint has started. This forces you to use the full range of cadences. You should find it an enjoyable session and a useful way of sneaking in some hard training without thinking too much about it.
This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine. Save time and money by having every issue delivered to your door or digital device by subscribing to the print edition or buying digitally through Zinio or Apple Newsstand.
You’ll find loads more triathlon training advice in triradar.com’s Training Advice section.