How To Train Smarter For XC Racing
In this post, I’ll talk about one simple question I ask myself when planning my training that helps me (I believe) to train smarter. Lots of people have limited time to train and therefore have to make the best use of whatever time they do have spare for fitness and skill development. This little check that I use I think can help with that, whether you have little or even lots of time to devote to cycling training.
Perhaps the number one thing to be clear about when you’re planning and when you’re actually executing a workout is WHY you are doing it. Lots of self-coached athletes struggle to answer this question on a daily basis. What is the reason for doing what you’re doing in your workout and what benefit are you hoping to yield by doing it? Without a clear answer to this simple question, training becomes directionless and far from a smart use of time. It often results in every training session being mediocre and same-y. Easy days become too hard to promote real recovery, and hard days become too easy to produce enough adaptive signalling for significant fitness improvement.
THE KEY QUESTION
The way that I make sure I train smart and am clear about why I’m doing something in training is to decide whether a specific day is a “Training” day, or a “Recovery day”. Is this an “on” day or an “off” day (to put it another way).
When I label a day with “Training” I know the single purpose of the day is to work HARD to produce sufficient stress to signal an adaptive response. What I do to produce that stress is variable (depending on time of year, current strengths and weaknesses etc) but I know that whatever I do, I have to train hard and get tired.
On the other hand, when I label a day with “Recovery” I’m sure that whatever I do that day is NOT designed to build more stress, but to do something that solely accelerates the recovery process. Sometimes this is a day off completely, other times an easy 1.5H spin. Without knowing exactly this purpose, it’s really easy to go out riding, and start attacking hills or chasing down other cyclists on the road or trail, which obviously compromises recovery.
AVOIDING THE BLACKHOLE
What this question boils down to and why it can help you train better is by keeping you away from the training blackhole. This is the idea that without focus, all training sessions get pulled into a chasm of mediocrity, where your recovery rides aren’t much easier than your supposed hard rides. You’ll notice that I don’t use an inbetween tag like “Medium day”, and this is purely to avoid the blackhole.
Implementing this check into your training and training planning can really accelerate your fitness improvement, especially if you are time-poor. It keeps you focused on the two main ingredients of fitness and ensures you’re clear on exactly when to push and when to back off.
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How do you stay focused with your training? Do you struggle with making training sessions true hard or easy. If you’d like to share any of your own experiences or want to ask me something, please let me know in the comments below.