I started what I would call actual training four years ago when I was still climbing. Until that point I had been showing up to the climbing gym, or the crag three days a week with marginal improvements. Most of my problem was mental but in April of 2008 I realized I was holding myself back and started doing some real, targeted training. The improvements were almost instant, mostly due to an increase in confidence, but also because I was doing targeted training as opposed to just showing up. Aside from the drop in weight and the increase in strength I also saw an increase in my enjoyment of the sport.
I also became a numbers person over night.I carried a notebook with me every time I went to the gym and immediately wrote down what I had just done. Everything that could be measured was measured. I timed each set of fingerboard exercises, including the rest period. I meticulously noted the weight lifted, routes climbed, and notes on my mental state. I was finally working toward tapping my potential. I was also able to let all that stuff go when it counted and just go for it.
After I got frostbite and couldn’t run I stared riding again as a way to get out and keep the shit at bay while the feeling returned to my toes. Which is part of the reason I ended up here with this subject matter.
Targeted training is the easiest (in a sense) way to get faster, or stronger, or more powerful. When training I never roll out the door without some kind of plan. Today it was to go easy and recover from the last two days of hard workouts. Which isn’t much of a plan, but its something. The harder days are a bit more scheduled.
There is a second way to go about it, which is summed up by the famous Eddy Mercxk quote “Ride lots”. I would suggest that is a gross over simplification of what he was doing, but let’s roll with it. Following the “ride lots” method you are free to do as you please. Want to ride hard? Do it. Want to go long? Great! You make up the plan as you go. Common sense and a little bit of body knowledge go along way here, though I do know some who end up riding themselves past the point of recovery, which results in burn out half way through the season.
The only time I apply the “ride lots” method is over the course of cyclocross season, a time of year I have no urge to compete in. September, through November I ride for as long as I like, as hard as I like, with whoever I like on which ever roads I damn well please. With no computer.
I try to exist in both of those worlds, but right now I feel like I’m falling between them. Higher intensity means shorter ride times, and since my goals for the end of the season are crits, I’ve been doing a fair amount of intensity. I’m fine with this most days. Though lately I’ve been feeling like what I want (which is different than what I need) are long bike rides with friends, or alone. While not totally at odds with my goals its not exactly the type of training I need to be doing.
Yes, I could just leave the Garmin sitting on my desk and go out for a nice long ride or two. But I would also know that I’m lacking the quantifiable data. But then again I’m just a Cat 3 hack.
Truth is both methodologies are good for me. I’ve learned so much about myself my rigorously following a plan. On the other hand there is something to be gained when one forgets the heart rate/ power zones and just goes on feeling. Right now I’m trapped between the cracks and trying to figure what side to climb out to.