Thursday, October 21, 2010

P.T.=Perfect Timing. Another Q&A Session with Mental Skills Coach Carrie Cheadle

We, as athletes, are amidst a familiar transition period during this beautiful indian-summer-like-fall. I wanted to offer up some useful information regarding off-season cross-training. I hope you enjoy!

Question posed by myself:
'There are many things I'm doing differently with my training this year. One of the mistakes I made last year was that I took too much time off the bike following my race season. Then my cross-training was too unplanned and therefore ended up being severely insufficient as I transitioned into base training. As a result of a poor quality/quantity off-season, I was obviously quite frustrated with the loss of fitness as I attempted to build an appropriate base as a Pro/1/2 racer over the winter. So this year, I planned my time off the bike - which was perfect. I also planned the big picture of the 2011 season's training and racing (which, as you know for us bike racers starts several months in advance in the fall). I felt pretty strongly that cross-training before starting the big base training that I have planned would be a necessary mental as well as physical break from the norm.
One of the things I wasn't anticipating, was attempting to get in the time necessary for cross-training while still keeping it light and fun and not too *planned*. For instance, I'm trying to do as many different things as possible, and am already seeing the benefits - both mentally and physically. However, I also know that I should still probably try to be getting in a certain amount of training 'time' each week; as a result, striving for that mental balance between spontaneity combined with necessary preparation can be hard.'

Answer given by Carrie:
'After years of working with athletes, I have learned that there is both an art and science to optimal training and that combination is different for each athlete. It’s good that you are assessing what is working for you and what isn’t and then trying to dial in the right balance for you. A lot of athletes struggle with how much time to take off between seasons. Some are afraid that if they take any time off they will lose too much fitness and not be as competitive. Some are so burned out that they take more time off than optimal for their physical fitness, but what might have been necessary for their mental state. Then they feel discouraged when they start training again and realize how much fitness they have actually lost.

When you are in your off-season there will come to a time when you still need to train to stay fit, but haven’t started your official base training yet. During this phase, it’s good to have an idea of the hours and intensity you need to get in each week and then be flexible with how you get that time in. This time is a great opportunity for cross-training. Changing things up can help prevent mental and physical burnout. During this time, get in your hours with things that sound fun to you.

If your off-season is completely unstructured, you run the risk of not getting in enough fitness, especially if you are balancing training and work/life. In order to keep things balanced, you might have to have a combination of planning and fun. You can have some days where you know you need to get in a certain length of time for your workout – but don’t plan exactly what it is you will do. You can leave it open and do whatever you feel like on that day. Take advantage of the opportunity to do things that you don’t get to do while you’re in season. If it sounds fun, it won’t feel like work to get it in. Go hiking, take a dance class (I recently took flamenco classes!), go kayaking, get on your mountain bike, be a gym rat – do whatever sounds fun to you.
For some athletes, they can transition right from cross-training into base training. They are ready for it and excited to start. If you aren’t feeling ready and excited to start, you may want to consider having a transition into your more structured training. The most important thing is that you don’t want to be sick of your bike when it’s time to start base training. So if you do want time in the saddle, make that fun as well. For some folks that means they only go out riding with friends; no heart-rate monitors or bike computers allowed. For others it means they ride their mountain bike instead of their road bike, or they ride their road bike, but don’t do any of their typical training ride locations.

There is a happy medium in there and you have to figure out what that is for you and that may even change from season to season. You have to have a certain amount planned so that you make sure you’re getting your fitness in, but you have to spice it up enough so that your body and mind get a break and get rejuvenated for the upcoming season.'

Carrie is a Sport & Exercise Mental Skills Coach and consults with athletes and teams on mental skills training and peak performance. Click on the links to sign up for Carrie’s newsletter, follow her blog, or follow her Mental Skills Training for Athletes page on Facebook!


beth said...

JUMP ROPE!!!!!!!!!!!

Heather Nielson said...

DUDE! For real....jump roping is NOT easy!

chadcheadle said...

Double unders... one of the hardest workouts I've ever done! It nearly killed me to get 10 the first time I tried!!