With another season of racing just starting, it's time to look back at last year, review our accomplishments and determine whether it was a successful season or not. Did we achieve our goals? Did we have fun? I want to repeat that—Did we have fun? Was training a chore or a thrill? What were your highs and lows? The majority of us are in this sport to improve and when we don't show the amount of improvement we wish, we look to understand what happened. This leads back to my original question and the answer I was looking for, namely: it's all about trends.
So, what can the stock market teach us about our season? The stock market is about trends. It's not about day to day changes (or, preferably, gains); it's about a long term return on our investments (historically 11 percent). This is the same way we should view our riding seasons. The important question to examine is which way is the trend moving? Are we improving? Are we accomplishing our goals? Are we learning new aspects of the sport? Are we learning something new about ourselves?
Let me give you another analogy. When we are trying to lose weight, we are advised not to weigh ourselves every morning, but to only jump on the scale once a week, at the same time of the day (e.g., Monday mornings). It's the overall trend of your weight, not the day to day fluctuations (which can sometimes vary by as much as 3-5 pounds) that matter.
The same goes for us in our training and races. We all have down cycles, we will have days or even weeks when we don't perform as well as we want. So, in keeping with the stock market analogy, it's not as important to look at a single "window" of training and competition, but to look at the big picture and the overall trend of improvement.
Let's ask some tough questions:
- Have you gained fitness?
- Have you gained confidence?
- Have you gained new skills?
- What has been your level of improvement?
One understanding that is important to develop is the reality that as we become better cyclists, our rate of improvement will slow. A corollary of this truth is that the better we get, the more hard days we have. The good news is that our good days will be at a higher level than ever before, but they may be more infrequent than they were when we were less fit. This becomes even more true the older we get.
If we don't understand this phenomenon, we may view our lack of progress as "failure." Of course, it is vital to understand when we have genuinely plateaued, which means that we likely need to change our training regimen in order to continue our improvement. It is important though to be able to have enough perspective on where we are at in our development as athletes to be able to view these difficult days and (occasionally) weeks as part of moving the trend upward.