Thriving vs. Surviving the End of Season: A Coach’s Perspective

By Dave Harward, PLAN7 Endurance Coaching – Late season motivation to ride and train can frequently be challenging. It’s August. It’s hot every day. You have to balance work, family, training, racing, resting, eating, etc., etc. Riding bikes is our common passion, but it can be tough to stay motivated to keep going hard, day in and day out. If you’re having any of these thoughts, you are not alone. We all want to perform at our best. As a coach, it’s my job to review and consider goals and intentions for all types of athletes. The purpose of this article is to address late season “burn out” with methods and goal setting throughout the year to keeping the gears turning strong.

Cyclocross is a great way to stay in shape after a long riding season. Photo by Dave Iltis

The first step is set realistic goals for yourself. These include events and races that you want to participate in and a timeline that is attainable so you know you can accomplish those goals (Cycling West is a great reference tool right at your fingertips). Next, we want to schedule training to match up with those goals and intentions, without over training of course. Having a timeline promotes constant assessment of how things are going. Cycling season can be year round, especially if you do ride multiple disciplines and incorporate off season training. The fitness build up is solid. However, it’s unrealistic to think that we can be at peak fitness year round. This is an example of how referring back to goals and intentions can keep you going strong when there may be a waver in motivation.

We are so lucky to have some of the most amazing riding in the country; road, trail or gravel. Terrain and weather get better and more beautiful in the late Summer and Fall. I want to throw out some options and consider not only how to use your built-up fitness to enjoy what is on offer, but also to think about how to translate it all into next season. Alright, time to find some events and set some goals! Let’s get creative!

Late Summer Options

Between mountain bike racing, road races or century rides, and the fast growing gravel grinder events, you’ve likely been curious about a different discipline. Why not explore a bit? There’s nothing like trying something new to grab your interest and help energize your passion for pedaling.

Most cycling communities have midweek race series going on through the summer months (see the calendar of events for road and mountain biking race series). These are great opportunities to check out a discipline you find interesting. Another great option is to check out local cycling clubs. Many clubs organize group rides, both road and mountain. You’ll be able to ride with experienced riders who are welcoming and interested in bringing people along, as well as mentor.

It may be intimidating to plug in to a new discipline. There are equipment and gear challenges as well as building technical skill for something new. However, it’s all about pedaling and building up a new skillset. Take things progressively. Find trails or routes that are appropriate for your level. You’ll soon know if it’s too much. When you reach that point take things back a bit and work on skills.

Fall Options

Rolling into the fall months you’re going to find cooler temperatures and amazing trail conditions. The scenery is spectacular and it will feel refreshing to get out and pedal. It’s time to get out on your favorite trail or embark on that long road route that you have been thinking about. Pick a different spot for each upcoming weekend in September and October.

Another great thing about the fall and even into the winter months is cyclocross (CX) season. Combining skills from road racing and mountain biking, as well as adding in a little bit of running, can be a thrill that opens up a whole new skill set whole challenging your fitness. Preparing for a serious assault on the CX season takes solid preparation. There are many groups throughout the area that practice and mentor new riders, and the race scene is a blast for any level of experience, even spectators!

CX preparation can start to take place when you’re in those summer doldrums. You’ll need to make some shifts to your training. As I mentioned you’ll be doing some running in CX races. It’s typically not long bouts of running. It’s more about explosive sprints, maybe 2-3 sections per lap. You’ll be dismounting at speed, running through an obstacle such as barriers, a steep hill or sand. Check out the PLAN7 Clinic Series on WUKAR Wednesdays if you want to develop you CX skills.

No matter the discipline of cycling that you may choose to try, taking a learned skill and applying it in a new format will definitely stimulate neuromuscular advancement and keep your mind fresh. This will definitely bring in some new motivation and engagement, all while taking advantage of the fitness you’ve been building all season.

Setting Goals for Next Season

This time of year offers some time for reflection on how you set up your current season. It is important to evaluate your goals and intentions. Did you hit the mark? Were there unforeseen obstacles? Did you make reasonable goals? What could you do differently next year?

Having an intention for the season along with dates, even if they aren’t events, can help you stay on track and remain motivated when the going gets tough. Even when you’re the goal setter, it’s a game of managing your expectations and intentions while keeping the plan on target. Ahhhh, keeping your plan on target.

Whether you are developing your own training plan or working with a coach, be sure to make frequent analysis, setting attainable goals with the ability to measure progress. You can choose mileage goals, time per week on the bike, goals around performance, even metrics to gauge your fitness.

Wrapping Things Up

This isn’t the typical coaching article I write. Usually you can expect something very particular to building a training program or focusing in on specific types of workouts or intervals. Maintaining motivation throughout a long season requires us to be a little more creative than changing up intervals or volume of time spent training.

We’ve addressed a number of ideas to stay engaged with the sport you love. Be ready to try something new. Look at some options that you know will be challenging. Step out of the normal routes or trails you typically ride. One big recommendation I have is go into the mountains as the summer is ending and we move into fall. Climb the canyons on the road. Go up high and ride the trails. We can always use the neuromuscular task of pedaling uphill. Enjoy and embrace the grand hills that many travel to see and we have in our backyards. More than anything enjoy being out of the city while you’re pedaling!

If I haven’t said it enough yet, set some goals. Decide on specifics to finish out the remainder of this season and maintain the fitness you’ve worked so hard to build. Find a way to move yourself into something new and stimulating. Start to think about your strengths and weaknesses from your regular assessments. Tailor your training to maintain and advance your strengths. Take a few weeks completely off! and then work through the winter months toward your goals.

If you’re struggling on how to put goals and intentions together, talk to a coach. One of the aspects of my job is to help people translate their love of this sport to improved fitness and optimal performance. Together we make sure your training plan fits into your life, while keeping you motivated and having fun. After all that’s what it’s all about.

Dave Harward founded PLAN7 Endurance Coaching in 2006, building individualized training plans for endurance athletes, offering optimized bike fitting and training consultations. PLAN7 also offers Sport Nutrition services, metabolic testing and the House of Watts indoor winter program. Learn more at plan7coaching.com.

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