We benefit immensely from this and improve our performance drastically and feel good both inside and out about our efforts.
As the season wanes, and we reach a high level of performance (or not), it becomes easy to start to slack off on the little things that helped get us here in the first place.
I know how busy life can be; I am living it as we speak. However, if we start to neglect the little things such as stretching, warm-ups, proper rest, nutrition, hydration, and positive self-talk, all our efforts that lead to this point can end up being in vain.
It would be such a shame to allow this to happen, and can be easily avoided by sticking to the plan that got us here to begin with. As the volume of our training lessens to accommodate our racing schedule -- and since it's the time of year where we are in peak fitness and focusing more on quality rather than quality -- there should be enough time to keep these vital components in our program.
As we all know by now (I hope), putting in time on the bike is part of the equation, without which we are definitely not going to perform at any level of proficiency.
However, active and passive rest and recovery are probably the most crucial components to improving performance in conjunction with the appropriate training stimuli.
Eating and hydrating properly and at the right times before, during and after races also plays a huge part in your performance. Getting enough sleep is another crucial component without which we will really start to backslide.
The practice of stretching seems to go out the window before anything else, (if it was ever in there to begin with), and it is not long before we start to have anatomical issues as a result. Please don't let this happen to you.
Stretching for just 10 minutes several times a week can improve performance, prevent injury, promote recovery and is a key element in any performance program.
Warm-ups are so critical to racing and even training performance, yet they get slacked on more than just about anything. If your body is not prepared for the rigors it is about to endure, then it will suffer immensely and under-perform.
This is why we write very specific warm-ups for the task at hand for our athletes. There are different demands on the body in every sport and every sub-discipline within each sport, and the warm-up needs to reflect these demands.
When a race is only 40 minutes long, and it goes out from the gun at 100% and does not let up, only those who are warmed up properly will even survive, let alone excel. Let's keep those (thorough!) warm-ups in the routine.
You have the fitness now; the warm-up is not going to wear you out and may be the difference between first place and getting dropped.
Last but not least, positive sports and personal psychology is so huge I can only touch on it briefly in this article. What we think has an extremely significant impact on how we perform. Our thoughts become our reality and if we tell ourselves that we do not belong, or that we aren't good enough, then you can bet that you are not going to suddenly end up in first place.
We all have doubts and are all scared to some degree when we get on that starting line. If we weren't, we wouldn't be human. The difference between the winners and the runners-up is that the winners feel the fear and do it anyway. It takes courage and discipline to be positive, especially in a world that promotes just the opposite.
Be courageous and believe in yourself; be gentle with your words when talking to yourself; and think positively. Some may say this is a naive approach. To them I say, people who take the risk of being different and positive take heat sometimes but always end up being people who others want to follow, emulate and be around.
It is a small price to pay for the benefit in the end. So be a leader, and believe on the possibility and talk nicely to yourself. It can be one of your most valuable tools in your performance tool chest.
Now we have covered a lot in a short time. I do not expect you to remember it all but do hope that you try to incorporate at least some of it back into your programs one little bit at a time until you are up and kicking butt!
If you are like the rest of us, you are probably better in one area than another. If this is the case, work on your weak areas first and most often, and if you need help or suggestions with any of this, ask your coach or a friend for help.
Jeb Stewart, M.S., C.S.C.S., is a USA Cycling Elite and USA Triathlon Level 1 coach and is certified by the ACSM, NSCA and NASM. He has a master's in exercise science and health promotion and is co-owner and head coach of Endurofit, LLC. For more information, visit www.endurofit.com or contact Jeb at firstname.lastname@example.org or 813-230-2900.