Do the BASICs better!
This phrase stuck with me after having a discussion with a fellow coach. Even a year later I keep coming back to it. “Do the basics better“. It has become a crucial part of my training philosophy. Thinking about the clients that I have worked with for numerous years now clearly confirms this approach. Doing the basics right did not only impact the performance but athletes’ well-being as well.
OK, so let’s dig in and see what I see as basics and how this might affect an athlete’s performance and well-being. But first – let me ask you a simple question. What would you perceive as these basics?
I am pretty sure you will come up with answers that are similar to mine. I did that with a few of my athletes and they responded pretty uniformly. These are some of the most common answers:
- Good nutrition
- High quality sleep
- Enough rest
- Consistent training
I was pretty happy with the answers I got. They were not that different from my answers as you will see later on. But of course, there is a catch. I picked a group of athletes that are very into training, numbers, methods, etc. and have been in the sport for years now. This could have contributed towards their way of thinking – being really focused on details like “Did I achieve exact watts on that interval.” “Sh*t, I missed it”, “This one was 30 seconds too short” and so on and so forth. We all know someone who is utterly obsessed with hitting that planned TSS (Training Stress Score). Well in the pursuit of the “PERFECT” session some people lose the sight of what really matters in the long term development. The basics. And this is happening to a lot of athletes and even coaches. We are constantly bombarded with new tools for training analysis, new “magic” metrics, etc.
You can get lost pretty quickly, that’s a fact.
I try to keep it pretty simple. Don’t get me wrong, we need to be detail-oriented, we need to emphasize numbers but 90% of the time we just focus on the wrong things.
Consistency. This is one of my favorite and one of the most underrated principles. Being consistent with training can be hard. Especially for all nonprofessionals. Work, family, friends can take a lot of time and it can quickly happen that you miss one, two, three sessions and suddenly the whole week goes by without performing a single training session. Well here is where planning the training comes in handy. Planning can help us in organizing our week, everything from work to training and all the way to having a picnic with friends. We can be pretty efficient if we put a bit of work into it. You do not need to have it all planned to the exact second. Just start with organizing the week so that you know on which days you will be training. That will slowly help you build up the routine. And do not worry if you still miss a day or two. It happens to all. You, me, and even to a world champion. You just have to start somewhere.
Once we become fairly consistent with training, hitting those sessions day after day, week after week, then you will see the actual difference.
“WE ARE WHAT WE REPEATEDLY DO. EXCELLENCE, THEN, IS NOT AN ACT, BUT A HABIT.”
Get enough sleep
This is a tough one. Because it is so simple, most of us do not really pay attention to it. So try to get as much sleep as you can. 8 hours of a high quality sleep each day is quite an effective performance booster. Throw in another afternoon nap and you will be flying. But let’s keep it real. Most of us cannot really get that afternoon nap but we can probably get 7-8 hours of sleep. Maybe we lay off the phone a bit earlier in the evening or try not to work too long and go to bed at a decent time in the evening. Give it a shot for a few days and you’ll see how much better you will feel. Oh, and having a sleeping routine helps as well. Going to sleep at a similar time every day is very helpful, sometimes even essential.
Fuel for the session ahead
Nutrition. Not my area of expertise so @timpodlogar is the right guy for this. Seriously, he can make you hit those high numbers with an ease. He’ll even let you enjoy eating some sweets. Sometimes plenty of them actually. But still – it is about the basics. For efficient training we need energy and we get that from food. So do not be afraid of eating. Try to fuel for the session ahead rather than for the session you just did. Or did yesterday. The most simple advice I can give you is to eat, starving is not going to make you faster.
Don’t stop during endurance rides
This one sounds a bit off, right? But to explain it a bit more in-depth, let’s look at an example. It is pretty common especially among amateur athletes that we go out for a 2-hour endurance ride and during the ride we have three ten minute breaks. During a two hour ride we had 30-min of rest. Once again. On a two-hour-long “easy-ish” ride we rest for 30 minutes. Are you getting it or should I repeat it once more just to be sure? It’s two hours, just do that and then hit that after-ride beer. Of course, once we go to a longer duration some “breaks” are unavoidable. From a pee break to maybe a coffee stop if the ride is really long. For most two to three-hour-long endurance rides there is no need for breaks. Just ride, put a strain on your body, do the work, do not let the body to recover, and only when you have successfully finished the planned ride you can get that beer.
Don’t stress about a single number
As I already mentioned once we go into the details we can easily miss the big picture. And in my opinion it is not about hitting that exact wattage you planned three weeks ago. It actually doesn’t matter if you hit only 360 W when the software says you should hit 365 W. You did not fail the training because of that. We will dig into the accuracy of those numbers combined with daily performance variations some other day but let’s just say that that 365 W target could easily become a 345-385 W range. And it goes for all – TSS, Strain, Work and any other metric out there. You are gonna have good days, bad days, average days. Everything. So don’t worry about just hitting that one number. It’s about doing the good quality work day in day out. Try not to totally overkill one training session and be shattered for the rest of the week. This will just prevent you from being consistent.
Fall in love with the sport
And probably the most important one. If we can do all of the above it will be much easier to achieve our goals. Love what you do. Being in the sport long-term means you have to enjoy what you are doing. And with that, you need to understand that nothing comes overnight so you have to be patient. So, if you are enjoying what you are doing and are willing to do it over and over and over and over and over and over again there is nothing standing in the way of getting to where you want to be.
If I was to describe these basics with one word I would use simplicity. And by simplicity, I do not mean training sessions should be boring and the same all the time. We just need to find the easiest way to produce the response we want to achieve. If we overcomplicate with training sessions we are gonna have a hard time tracking what we have done and what we need to do. Professor Stephen Seiler once said:
More & more I find the training process to be simple. And precisely because it is simple, with no shortcuts, far too hard for many.Prof. Stephen Seiler