I don't think I have to tell anyone reading this how different 2020 looks than it did a few weeks ago. For most people, life as we knew it is being rewritten on a seemingly daily basis. Most of our athletes would have just started, or would be just about to kick off their spring race seasons. Group rides would be popping up left and right as the weather warms and we ventured out onto the roads and trails. As of right now, it appears we won't be doing anything resembling a traditional organized event for at least the next couple months. That's left a lot of athletes out there wondering 'Now what?'. I'd like to share what we're doing as coaches with our athletes to answer that question.
Remember the core of why we do this.
As I said recently, one of the things that makes me most proud of our athletes is that none of them are bucket-listers. They're not the folks out there simply trying to get through events so they can tick them off the list. That's a testament to the kind of people we are so fortunate to attract. Even with that internal drive, I've seen quite a few encounter a feeling of loss over not getting to take part in upcoming events. I've felt this myself with my own race calendar becoming an unknown. What we've come back to with each athlete is the core reasons for why they are an athlete in the first place. It's because we get to challenge ourselves to grow, to improve; to become stronger, more resilient people. And at the end of the day, because all of that is fun. It's fun to improve. It's fun to get stronger. It's fun to do something we used to be incapable of doing. When we frame things in that light, yes it's a bummer we don't get to hit those starting lines, but it's a lot easier to remember how much we still have that we can do to experience fulfillment.
Return to your values.
I've long been a believer that success in any part of life comes from discipline; And discipline comes from our values. Everyone loves to talk about motivation, but that is an emotion and it will often fail us when we need it most. Especially in times like this where we don't have as many things to drive our motivation, we're so much better to focus on discipline. That's the thing that will get us on our bikes or into our running shoes when we're not sure if we feel like it. So how do we cultivate discipline? It's easier than you might think. It really just comes down to our values. Decide what you value. Perhaps it's better health. Perhaps it's being stronger. Perhaps it's being more skilled. Then when you're in the moment of a decision on what to do, you'll have already made those far more important decisions of what's important to you. If I'm ever feeling unmotivated, I just think back on my goals and values and I weigh my decisions based on them. I'll give you a hint - I've never been disappointed afterwards when I forced myself to get on my bike. But I've definitely been disappointed after when I let a lack of motivation stop me.
Look for opportunities.
As a coach, one of my roles is to be the one looking for opportunities. Being that many people are being forced to stay home, or at least close to home, this has unlocked a surprising amount of time for many athletes. I'm seeing this used in a number of positive ways: more training time, ability to focus on specific areas of training, more sleep/recovery time, and more time to focus on healthy habits like better eating and mindfulness. Many of our athletes are now working from home, and those who travel for work are currently grounded. That's freeing up a lot of time and energy for training we didn't always have. We are also in a unique situation where we can focus on training without also having to balance the demands of racing. That's allowing us to do block periodization, where we focus on a specific type of fitness for 2-3 weeks at a time and really maximize gains.
Outside of training, I'm also seeing our athletes' sleep numbers go up significantly. Folks who used to struggle to get enough sleep are now routinely getting 8+ hours. That alone can lead to a massive improvement in quality of life and in the returns on the investments made in training. And with athletes almost all now cooking every meal at home, they're getting a chance to be more mindful of their nutrition and how what we eat makes us feel. Look for the areas in your own life where there are opportunities to improve. If we really look, it's amazing how many there are.
Adapt as needed.
Some of what I just said about more training time may not apply to everyone. For many people, this time is stressful and is putting increased demands on portions of their lives. For those of us in that camp, it's important to use training for the mental and physical therapy it can provide. The human body seems to be happiest when it has an outlet for its energy. Even during stressful times, getting on the bike or out for a run or lifting weights can be just what we need to help that stress dissipate. If you're finding that time and energy are in short supply right now, don't let training be one more stressor. Dial it back to shorter sessions and match the intensity to what you have the physical and mental energy to handle. Adapt, but don't cut it out completely for two reasons. One, you will be happier and healthier with regular exercise no matter what. And two, whether it's measured in weeks or months, life will begin to return to normal. It will once again be safe to have group events and races. When that happens, we want to be ready.
*Thanks to Speed Science athlete Jess V. for the awesome ride we took this picture on. Looking forward to climbing that mountain together again!