The Case for Slowing Down

The Case for Slowing Down

Despite the frustrations of last year, 2020 gave us ample time to reflect upon our priorities as athletes. While you may be aching to race again in 2021, Coach Joe Hamilton discusses why taking things slowly may be just what your athletic career needs.

If 2020 showed us anything, it was how to reset our goals and expectations. With changes in travel, cancellation of race schedules, and readjustment of our daily routines, COVID-19 has forced us to re-navigate our training schedules and reprioritize why we do all this training in the first place. 

For many of my athletes, including myself, 2020 was very productive and helped me establish positive net results. It provided for clarity and a moment to look in the mirror to ask the question: why? Why do we train? Why do we have structure? Why do we subject our minds and bodies to the discipline of sport? Is it true we only train for the primary purpose of competing in events? 

2020 has taught us to re-evaluate and question our purpose for training. Not only do we train for events, but we also train to be better versions of ourselves — physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Our greatest challenge is adapting to the changing environment we now live in. Last year provided us the time to realize we train for a higher purpose than just an event. 

Many athletes found in 2020 a space to focus on the deficiencies that were neglected in previous years. Others saw 2020 as an opportunity to go back to the basics of why we ride — for fun, for freedom, and for the high we get after we train. Other athletes leaned into another discipline. For me, this meant spending more time backpacking with my loved ones while experiencing the correlation between the gym Montana’s rugged backcountry. I can’t say I would trade this year in for another. It was not bad, it was just different, and I was able to finally accept that. 

So here we are a few months into 2021. So far, it doesn’t look a whole lot different from last year. What if expecting the 2021 season to be “normal” sets us up for failure and disappointment again? Can and will we be able to adjust? Of course we will, because we got through 2020. But this year, you may consider not rushing into adding a busy race schedule to your calendar. Consider that rushing into another schedule may potentially undervalue what we learned and took away from last year. Instead, be more thoughtful and deliberate about your training approach. We may need to adjust again this year, but we will be able to do it with five essential lessons we gleaned from 2020. 

1. Don’t Rush Into Things 

If you’re like me and many of my athletes, we probably already have a pretty good idea of what the event schedule looks like for 2021. We also know from last year how quickly events were canceled. So take time now to reframe and focus on fitness. We all know we aim to manage CTL, ATL, form, and fatigue, and often do that through our primary discipline, especially as we get closer to the events. But if events are canceled, consider and appreciate that fitness comes in many forms. For example, focus on recovery and strength training, and test your fitness with other indoor and outdoor adventures. Some of the most successful athletes play various sports and experiment with being outside their comfort zone.  Remember that athleticism is not just about training specifically for an event; it’s about training yourself to move more effectively and efficiently no matter what’s on your calendar.

2. Leave Space for the Process

Being focused on the date of an event leaves us to define outcome-based goals. These goals may be a placing or a finish time. But remember, outcome goals all stem from process goals. So as you set goals and objectives for yourself, remember that you can define success in lots of other forms that improve your process. For example, what are your recovery goals? What about nutrition goals? Are you committed to those, too? The ability to define your process goals ensures you make process improvements and view athleticism from a holistic perspective.  If the event doesn’t happen, we still have those process goals we can work on that will only make us better at reaching those outcome-based goals. Remember, process goals + performance measures = better odds of achieving those outcome goals.

3. Utilize the “Fresh Start Effect”

Coined by the Wharton School, the Fresh Start Effect, otherwise known as a temporal landmark, this is when we mentally flip a switch to a new start. We are all familiar with this when we set New Year’s resolutions or a new annual training plan. During this time, it is easier to create a new habit and lay out goals. But the question we need to ask ourselves is how do we define goals considering our experiences of last year? How do we ensure we structure productive outcomes? The “Fresh Start” phase is a great time to capitalize on what we enjoyed last year and what worked well, or not so well. Using what we learned from last year, we now have a reference point to set habits, and a trajectory for the previous two points discussed: not rushing into things and leaving space for the process. 

4. Write Down What you Learned 

We are a few months into the New Year. If you have not written down what you learned from 2020, do so now. This is now much easier to do with the note feature in TrainingPeaks. Write down where you see opportunities to grow. At the end of the year, you have a reference point to look back on and ask yourself what worked and what didn’t. Writing things down serves as a great way to look at and celebrate your successes, and will help you readjust your 2021 plan to confront your limiters. It is surprising how much my athletes accomplish when they write down the lessons they’ve learned and align those lessons with their new goals. 

5. Challenge Yourself

Approach growth apart from racing or participating in events. Take time to think about how you may do things differently, and be creative in the process. Remember that change is essential for productivity and progress, not only as athletes but as human beings, too. Challenges, as hard as they come, can make our lives richer. 

Now, get some! 

Reference: 

ThomasEnduranceCoaching (Taylor Thomas) 2021, “The Case for Slowing Down”
https://enduranceminded.com/

Joe Hamilton

Joe Hamilton is a coach for Thomas Endurance Coaching. He has more than a decade of experience in the bicycle industry as an athlete, coach, personal trainer, and team organizer.  As a USAC and Accredited Training Peaks Level 2 coach, he has helped athletes at every level prepare to reach their goals in road and mountain cycling. You can follow TEC on Twitter,  Instagram, or Facebook. For more information on personal coaching, training plans, or to schedule a free introductory call, find Joe at: www.thomasendurancecoaching.com