History Repeating Itself
There is no exact time to start this process without giving it some thought. You can use your training history to help fine-tune the date. Look at past years and see if you started too early, too late, or just on time. For example, let's say that you have a major goal in mid-April. You know that it takes you about 6-8 weeks of consecutive training weeks to prepare you for racing. Throw in a couple races as prep for the April event and you can pretty much estimate about February 1 would be about the right time, give or take a week or so. The good thing about this process is that it forces you to look at what works for you and not everyone else. It forces you to be self-aware as an athlete and there is no better characteristic than that!
What Are the Primary Goals?
It's such a clich? and sometimes overused, but do not go into the beginning of your serious training without particular goals. I like to separate goals into two specific buckets; training and racing. Because of the nature of bike racing, training goals are usually more in your control, like improving your watts per kilo in the threshold test or your FTP in a field test. Race goals are a little bit more ambiguous, because so much is out of your control in a bike race.
You also have to look at when your goals take place to help structure your season. Last year and as well as this year, Master's Nationals are in September. I don't think I have ever recalled them being so late. This of course, presents a unique approach to the season when you are starting your serious training now or in January. September is almost 10 months away!! You get the point, you must think about the big picture and structure your season in a way that allows you to be motivated, fresh and feeling good NEXT FALL!
Temper the Enthusiasm
Having been in the sport for a very long time, a point I'd like to stress is engage in some restraint. This time of year is filled with enthusiasm for the upcoming season. It's the time when teams fill out their rosters, have a lot of group rides together, meetings, planning, and fun, etc. One of the key characteristics of a successful rider is being focused on doing what's right for them. Make sure you look at your program and do the proper work for you. Make sure you are doing what is going to make you successful this upcoming year. I realize there is a strong social component to cycling. We don't want to take that away, we just want to make sure that you are taking part in a training program that allows you to get the best out of yourself. It's called being self-disciplined.
This is an exciting time of the year. In a way, it's the bike racers "spring" as the season starts to bloom. Just take some precaution to plan the year with some thought, including when it will all begin. A good plan will help guide you to realistic goals that are attainable. Attainable goals lead to achievement, which brings a lot more fun and satisfaction.
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