We live in a world of data overload.
We’re constantly attached to our phones, wearing watches (that are attached to our phones) and are surrounded by screens. Even when we get outside to run or ride, the majority of us will have a bike computer mounted to our handlebars or a watch on our wrist, tracking how far we’ve gone, how fast we’re going and where we end up. It’s incredibly interesting and often hugely useful, but there’s something we need to watch out for.
With everything being tracked and monitored for us, we only need to glance down for a moment to learn a multitude of things: “I’m faster than yesterday”, “My power up that hill wasn’t as good”, “Turn left here”, “Oooh, lunch time”.
We take our cues from this external device, but it can’t possibly know everything. It doesn’t know how much sleep you had last night, whether you ate enough after your workout yesterday or that you might be coming down with the lurg.
It doesn’t know what you’ve done or what you plan to do.
And so, to the point of this piece… We were interested to understand how well we know ourselves, in terms of what training we think we’ve done versus what training we actually have done, so asked two of our ambassadors to answer the following questions:
In the last 5 months (November - March):
How many hours do you think you have spent on the bike?
How is your fitness now compared with at the end of November?
Over the winter, how much time do you perceive that:
you spent in Zone 2?
you spent above Zone 3?
How do you feel at the moment (e.g. fast, fit, tired, sluggish, heavy, powerful …)
Q2: Less fit due to sickness in December and the recovery was long; pretty much recovered now.
Q4: Fit, but sore.
Q4: Sluggish, lactic, not able to hit peak.
As you can see, both athletes had a good awareness of how much they’d been on their bikes in that period, but once it came down to the nitty gritty, their perception of what they’d actually been doing in that time decreased. Whilst this information was useful for each athlete individually, and we were able to provide them with feedback for their training going forward, it also provided us with some valuable lessons that are beneficial to any individual that is training to improve.
Look at the macro, as well as the micro
What are your goals? When do you need to be sharp? Where can you sit back a little? It’s important to phase your training so you don’t burn out. The winter is the perfect opportunity to build up your endurance base (hence why we asked how long was spent in Zone 2 – the endurance zone). Just like the foundation under a house, your endurance base needs to be solid before you can start building on it. With loads of endurance, you will be able to recover efficiently from interval training so you can nail every session and, on race day, you’ll be able to find your sprint when you need it most.
Take time to reflect
Look at the sessions you are doing, individually and as a whole. How many of them are Zone 2? How many are in the high power zones? Then check in with yourself. Are you feeling lethargic and tired or sharp and eager? Are you motivated or struggling to make yourself train? If you have a coach, make sure you are communicating openly; they’ll know whether, and how, to make any adjustments to your training. They might realise you need some time off. If you are structuring your own training, experiment with making some changes. If you feel you haven’t seen any improvement lately, a switch up in your training might give you the edge you need.
Rest and easy days are critical
Resting IS training. If you don’t take your rest days as seriously as your session days, then you are doing yourself a disservice. It is critical to allow the body to recover, rebuild and adapt. If you really get ants in your pants on days off, then make sure anything you do is super easy. This is where data monitoring is important; making sure you don’t overdo it on off days is just as important as hitting target zones on hard days.
Have ‘No-Data’ days
You should be able to monitor yourself without checking numbers all the time; that is to say, you should have a sense of your limits based purely on your physiological response. Practice pacing yourself over different length rides by changing the settings on your bike computer to only show the time of day (if you can’t do that, hide it in your jersey pocket). That way, your ride is recorded and you can check it afterwards, but you develop an intrinsic gauge of your own effort levels.
The plethora of data available to us is amazing and, when used correctly, extremely valuable. However, as with everything in life, moderation is key. Don’t rely on it so rigidly that you forget to check in with yourself.