Special blog post by ALP athlete Raquel Miller

I have been a competitive athlete since I was in junior high school. I started out as a long distance track runner, picked up cross country in high school, competed on scholarship for both in college, and then after college I got into triathlon and ultimately bike racing. The majority of my life thus far has consisted of endurance sports. I did play other sports in between – basketball and volleyball, and even participated in two sports (volleyball + cross country) in the same season, my sophomore year of high school, but nothing has ever compared to the physical and mental demands of pure endurance sports.

Until recently, I have always adhered to a training and racing plan, and even now, I follow a fitness training plan. It is a lot more flexible, but it is structured nonetheless. Following a plan has many benefits, but here are a few I think are particularly important:

1.     A plan is tailored to your individual needs, or at least it should be. If it does not, you should consider having a conversation with your coach. Do not sit there and pretend that everything on the schedule is doable if it is not. Help your coach help you.

2.     A plan takes the thinking out of training. Who is not busy these days? We all are. There is nothing more pleasing than getting home at the end of a long day and knowing that you do not have to think about what workout you will do the next day. Of course, we all get nervous when it is a particularly challenging workout, that is normal.

3.     A plan gives you confidence in your training and racing. If your plan is tailored to your needs and it allows you to stay calm and think less about your training, then you will be confident each time you roll out to do a workout, or line up on the start line.

 

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So far everything I have said is common knowledge, right? Yes, however, there is a big difference between understanding the benefits of a plan versus leveraging them. This is where we have to exercise a lot of self-control, something endurance athletes struggle with. No matter what we do, we think we could always be doing more. Sound familiar?

Here is the thing, if you did your due diligence prior to hiring your coach, you should have 100% confidence in his/her’s ability to coach you to be the best cyclist that you can be, on and off the bike. I did my due diligence, which is why Alison Powers has been my coach for almost three years now. If she told me to do a one-hour recovery ride on the most beautiful day of the year, I did a one-hour recovery ride [on the most beautiful day of the year]. I would not bag her plan and go out for a three-hour ride with friends because it was so nice out. If she told me to do a steady three-hour endurance ride on a day where I was feeling really strong and wanted to ride harder, I did a steady three-hour endurance ride [even though I was feeling really strong]. I would not ride harder simply because I felt I needed to take advantage of the feel-good day. When you steer away from your coach’s plan, you are not following the plan. I repeat, YOU ARE NOT FOLLOWING THE PLAN. You may think that one ride will not matter, but it does. And chances are, if you have changed up the plan on your own a few times before, you do it quite often, which means the accumulated fatigue is greater and will have a much bigger impact down the road.

Think of it this way – Say you rode a lot harder than you should have on Thursday. You wake up fatigued on Friday and do your two-hour endurance ride, despite feeling fatigued. Then you wake up on Saturday to do a very important interval workout that totals three hours when all is said and done. It felt far more exhausting than it should have. Now it is Sunday. You wake up very fatigued to the tune of a four-hour endurance ride. Even though you know you probably should not do the entire four-hour ride, you do anyways and you end up dragging a** the last hour. You think since you have Monday off you have enough time to recover and get right back on the intensity by Wednesday. Come Wednesday, your heart rate is much higher for tempo and sweet spot than it should be and your legs feel like s***; you are pedaling squares. This is where you “help your coach help you”, even though this should have been done prior to Saturday.

I could take the above scenario so much further, but I think I proved my point. It is hard for me to understand why people do not follow their coach’s plan. Paying for a service and then not using it the way it should be used does not make much sense. I have been coached the majority of my life, and while I am not a professional athlete and never have been, I have raced at very respectable levels. I attribute my personal success to my coachability. It also does not hurt that I have had some of the best coaches on the planet!

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