By BJ Basham, Master PCG Coach
I have worked with many riders in the years I’ve been coaching, and I think of them all as being in one of three different phases of their preparation—at the bottom of their form, in a growing and improving phase, or at the top or peak of their form. These categories apply to both new and experienced riders. Regardless of the stage you’re in, you need to remember the little stuff. That means paying attention to all the things you do besides training to get ready for your events. Stuff like remembering your recovery nutrition, taking a nap, or getting enough sleep at night.
When it comes to paying attention to little stuff, it is usually the riders at the top and the bottom of their form that need to be reminded the most. Riders who are improving and seeing progress and return from their training are motivated to keep seeing that progress, so they stay on top of the little stuff.
What does it matter?
Riders at the bottom of their form can easily get in a “What does it matter?” state of mind:
- What does it matter what I eat? I’m not training that much. Snickers bars and beer make for good recovery if I’m out of shape anyway.
- What does it matter if my bike is squeaking? I’m not fit enough to win.
- What does it matter if I start at the back? I’m not going to finish anyway.
For these riders, redoubling their focus on the small stuff can help them start to make gains and improve faster. Making sure to train, rest, and take care of their bodies is a necessity for getting back into shape. These riders need to remember that if they assume they won’t ride well, they will almost always be right. Doing all they can to avoid holding themselves back will give them the best chances for great training days, which can lead to great race days.
You aren’t bulletproof.
Strange as it may seem, when riders reach their peak of fitness they can easily get into a bulletproof mindset:
- I’m so strong I can eat whatever I want.
- I’m so fast that I can waste my energy in the race and still have a shot.
- I’m so fit that I can win on a muddy bike with worn out training tires.
- Recovery drinks and extra rest are for riders weaker than I.
For these riders, staying focused on the small stuff can help extend their peak and ensure that they are not wasting their limited days of peak form on days that are not the targets of their season. Many riders in the middle of the peak of their season go super deep at the Wednesday night worlds and then wonder why they didn’t have the snap at their target events on the weekends.
Everybody needs to remember the little stuff.
Every rider needs to pay attention to the little stuff. I have known riders who can hold that focus right up to and through their target events, but I have seen just as many riders who lose the plot in the days or even hours before an event. They let their diet get sloppy, or they spend time doing stuff and not resting. On race day some riders will totally neglect their pre-race prep or not warm up like they have been with every workout leading up to the event.
There are probably a number of reasons that a rider might forget the little stuff. For some it may be just a matter of making sure they have an excuse for not riding well:
- I would have done better if I’d done my normal warm-up.
- I would have won if I’d remembered to pump up my tires.
- I would have finished if I hadn’t eaten fast food on the way to the race.
The riders who tend to be successful are the ones who pay attention to the process of getting ready to race. That process shouldn’t stop until you get to the end of the event. Remembering the little stuff is a simple thing that every rider can do to make sure they see that process all the way through.
BJ Basham is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach with Peaks Coaching Group. He and other PCG coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes. BJ can be contacted directly through www.PeaksCoachingGroup.com.