Are you ready to shift up a gear to take on a longer, harder challenge? Here’s five questions you need to ask yourself first:
What is your goal?
If you’ve already hit your early season targets and you are ready to stretch yourself then it is time for a new goal. If your aspiration has taken a big step up and your goal is significantly more challenging than anything you have done before it is important to use good goal setting techniques. Make sure you have small step goals in place to help you along the way. Think of them as rungs in the ladder on the way to the big goal at the top.
How much time can you dedicate to your new goal?
Gearing up to a harder challenge is going to require a change in your approach to training. It won’t be enough to simply to do more of the same. It may require more time, particularly if you are looking to extend the distance you ride with a new endurance challenge.
Take a careful look at how you are training at the moment, how much time you dedicate to it and how productive your sessions are. It may be that you don’t need more time, just more focus, to get rid of the junk miles and replace them with focused and well-planned sessions. If you don’t have more time to give your training you are going to have to train smarter.
Do you have the tools you need?
You don’t need a new bike or fancy wheels to take your riding to the next level although that will undoubtedly have some benefits. If you only have a limited budget spend your money on tools that will improve your fitness. Stepping up a gear will require more focused training. The ultimate training tool for avoiding wasted time is a power meter, you don’t have to do all of your sessions with one but regular access to training with power will make a huge difference.
However, data is nothing unless it is applied correctly so under the heading of ‘tools’ we are going to include training plans. You can download Wattbike training plans for popular events. A structured training plan will make sure you see the results you want as you work towards your new challenge. If you have never followed a plan before you will be amazed at the difference it makes!
Is your body ready for this?
Tackling a harder, more challenging event is going to put new strains on your body so you need to make sure that you are in good physical condition to handle the demands of a new training program.
Firstly - do not start a new plan if you are already uninjured. Focus on getting rid of any niggling aches and pains before you start the plan. This would be a good time to have a bike fit or visit a physio for some ‘pre-hab’ exercises to ensure your body is ready for the rigors of tougher events.
Taking on a tougher challenge is going to require you to be even more focused on healthy diet and recovery as you push yourself out of your established comfort zone.
Do you have the support you need?
If you have reached a level of riding where you feel comfortable and confident then it can be emotionally as well as physically difficult to take on a new challenge. You may have fresh doubts about your abilities or nervousness that you haven’t experienced. It helps to have people around you who are supportive of what you are trying to achieve. The ultimate supporter is a good coach who can monitor and set your training as well as giving you the advice you need. Otherwise look for riders in your club or friendship group who have taken on similar challenges and can offer advice.
The people closest to you also need to be on board with your plans as a renewed focus on training or increased hours on the bike can cause friction if it is unexpected. If you have your sights set on a big challenge it can lead to single mindedness, often interpreted as being selfish! The more they understand what you are trying to achieve, why and what the time frame is the less grounds for disagreement.
Written by Hannah Reynolds
Hannah is proof that you don’t need to be good at racing to pin on a number, just enthusiastic. She has ridden some of the world’s toughest sportives including the Haute Route Alps, La Marmotte and Megavalanche – the famous downhill mountain bike race.
When she’s not on the bike, Hannah is a freelance writer and journalist and former Editor of Cycling Weekly and Cycling Active. She is co-authour of France en Velo and Bloomsbury publications Fitter, Faster, Further and Get on Your Bike.