#1 Set Goals
This isn’t #1 by mistake. The best thing you can do right now is set goals for your season. Without goals, we are blindly aiming at achieving some sort of excellence that may not be measurable or obtainable. When setting your goals, keep it to 2-5 items and ensure they are SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Timely.
#2 Its Time to Buy Measuring Devices
This goes hand in hand with #1 on our list. Obtain data measuring devices so that you can accurately train towards a goal. This comes in the form of a cycling power meter, accurate head unit (garmin, wahoo, etc) and a possible running power meter. While a heart rate monitor is better than nothing, your heart rate can be affected by many factors on a day-to-day level which could stagnate your training.
#3 Understand Your Strengths and Race Them
With measuring devices comes the ability to measure your strengths and weaknesses. You should train your weaknesses but race your strengths. If you know that you have a higher efficiency level in heat than most, race a hot event. If you know you have a higher percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers, race events that require explosive attacks. You naturally will have strengths and weaknesses. Going into a race that shows your weaknesses will only leave you feeling discouraged and slow. There is a reason why Usain Bolt doesn’t run the 1 mile or marathon, he is a sprinter.
#4 Know your Race Weight
This goes with #3 if you are a heavier athlete. If you’re a heavier athlete then you will have more mass and a hot race will cook you from within. Also, by knowing your race weight you will understand when losing weight will benefit you and when it may start to negatively affect performance. If you have weight to lose, then you could drastically improve your overall run performance and watts/kg in a hilly race. If you’re already a light athlete and you race flat races, then losing a ton of weight may not be wise. Also, if you’re an athlete only cycling on a flat surface, then sometimes adding weight can be beneficial! The key is to understand your race distance/demands and what body type is best for that race.
#5 Optimize Your Equipment
Still riding Gatorskins in races…. then this point may be your most important key to your season. Optimizing equipment in some areas can make a huge difference while in others its kind of a waste of money. Big areas of improvement to overall speed can often be made in terms of tire selection, clothing selection, and bike fit. Lets not forget that the engine is the most important part, but if you’re a Ferrari and for some reason you put chains on your tires and hang a parachute out your trunk, then I’m guessing there are easy ways to get faster. Read #6 to figure out how to maximize this.
#6 Aerodynamic Consulting
Quite possibly the best bang for your buck currently in the sport of cycling/triathlon. The highest percentage of resistance to any cyclist is the air they are trying to overtake. This can be measured for all cyclists and therefore it can be improved. We have the knowledge in place to help you measure your CDA (coefficient of drag area) and then tests set up to help you improve this number. By improving your CDA from .26 (average triathlete) to .23 you may save up to 15 minutes on an Ironman bike split. If you’re a cyclist chasing Time Trial events, this is the biggest thing that you are missing out on.
#7 Sports Psychology
For some reason this always gets a bad rap. People think this is some pseudo-science or gimmicky. Well, I’m here to tel you that there are scientific research studies supporting it and it’s a huge factor in athletic performance. If you are pushing yourself in a race (regardless of the distance) then you will enter a dark place at multiple points of the race. Sports Psychology can help you through this. Another key way to integrate Sports Psychology into your training is if you become injured. By using different forms of Sports Psych, you can actually improve while resting. Key terms to look up would be visualization techniques, relaxation techniques, Individual Zone of Optimal Performance/Functioning (IZOP or sometimes called IZOF), mental toughness, and understanding confidence.
#8 Training Camps
Have a big race coming up in 2017 that you want to peak at? A training camp can help push your fitness to a level that is extremely difficult to reach on your own. A training camp is informative in nature, but it also includes a ton of training. By coming to a camp, the athlete can expect to leave with a higher level of fitness along with a stronger understanding of key principles happening in their training/racing. By becoming stronger and smarter, the athlete sets themselves up for a higher probability of a great race.
#9 Join a Masters Team, Running Club, Cycling Team
While many often train on their own, the benefit of being part of a team is 2nd to none in terms of learning the tactical/technical side of the sport. For example, even if you’re a triathlete, you would benefit from knowing better handling skills on a bike and swimming with people in a lane at masters. Beyond the technical skills, training in a group from time to time is a great way to get in extra training that is often easy to dismiss if you’re by yourself. Finally, being part of a team is a great way to learn of different training rides/runs and races. The more you race and become part of the community, the better all-around ambassador of the sport you become. While you’re asking how does this make me faster, this is an intangible that can’t be measured, but helps towards your overall longevity of the sport which does improve performance over time.
#10 Get a Coach
Here is the shameless plug. If you’ve been writing all of this down to keep notes for yourself, then there is a high probability that you need a coach or you need to talk with your coach more. On a day-to-day basis, this is what your coach is doing. Beyond your training plan, a coach is really a personalized scheduler, notebook, keeper of measurements, and goal setter. If you don’t know how to analyze your data, a coach can do this. If you don’t know your race day weight, a coach can help narrow it down, If you’re unsure of setting goals, a coach can help make them smart. A coach is like a swiss army knife, While everyone knows about the knife in their toolbox, they also come with a ton of weird gadgets that when used in the right context, make life a lot easier and more enjoyable.
Disclaimer: This article was written with the athlete that trains 5-7x a week in mind. If you’re an athlete that is just getting into the sport and not sure how to train, then I would suggest you start at #10 as that will be the best way to move forward.