Adjustments : What to do when the plan gets off course


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As we move into the season, there are two major areas we want to look at and discuss:  The training plan and the races.  

Specifically, we want to address the planning aspect of each.   For example, before any bike race, at any level, you see teams meeting and plotting out their “plan.”  They are deciding in advance what they are going to do to achieve their goals during the race.  There is a lot of validity in doing this because obviously without a good strategy and assignments for the riders, hopes of a good result basically disappear for the team. As a coach, creating a plan for an individual rider is also important, although the team plan has to factor in when deciding what an individual will do.

Let’s look at a plan from another perspective, the training plan.  This is the same idea with a different goal.  Here of course, you are planning your training schedule to accomplish your goals as an athlete.  Workouts, load, and specific events are laid out in advance in hopes the athletes can follow the training plan and lead to success.  A solid training plan requires a starting point, an end point, and the path to get there.

I don’t even know whom Ben Bayol is, but he was quoted as saying Most plans are just inaccurate predictions.

And this couldn’t be truer as it applies to cycling.  Bike racing, as most know is so unique from other team sports. Like I have said in the past, it's the only sport I know of where a team works for the glorification of one individual.  In any bike race, you have multiple teams, of all sizes and ability, all with different strategies, mixing it up, non-stop for the length of the race. 

Predicting the outcome of something like that is like chaos theory (unpredictable) and next to impossible.  Imagine basketball having 10 teams on the court at the same time, all with a goal of scoring the most points in one basket, non-stop for 60’ with no substitutions!  Chaotic!

That quote above from Mr. Bayol rings pretty true in bike racing.  So many individuals and teams have a plan that is pretty much shot almost immediately after the race begins.

This leads to the focus of this article, “adjustments.”   It’s not so much about the plan you have; it’s the adjustments you make when the plan goes off course.

Here is a simple example, which seems to happen often in criterium racing:  Your team (Team A) as a super sprinter, pretty much a lock to win if the race comes down to a field sprint on the last lap.    With three laps to go, there is a lull in the race (again, happens often) and four rather strong riders, who haven't been doing anything but sitting in and conserving energy, somehow attack together and get a fifteen second gap on the field rather quickly. 

What does Team A do?   Well, we will leave that up to Team A and another article. But the main point is they have to make an "adjustment" to their pre-race plan.  And when you think about it, the adjustments they attempt to make during the race (without a time out) are the key to success. 

As another example, you see and hear about adjustments when watching basketball, football and hockey.  As the teams leave the playing area, the announcers always make a comment as to how the coach will have to make adjustments to what is going on during the game.  The team had a plan, but because of what their competition was doing, their plan was no longer effective and adjustments will have to be made.

Adjustments get you back on track and need to be executed often.  They also require close monitoring of the situation.  In other words, in cycling a coach has to be on top of what is going on every day.  In a bike race, it requires the team (without a coach, but hopefully with an experienced leader) to be active in the race, up front, and attentive and most importantly have good communication. 

So, as we are approaching and preparing for the upcoming 2015 season by creating a training program for the next 6-8 weeks, what are some of the events that may cause us to make adjustments (in no particular order of importance) to the training plan:

  • Family/work/school - For most athletes, cycling is not their primary source of income.  There are other more important areas of life and these areas take priority, as they should.
  • Sickness - Doesn't it seem that there really isn't a cold or flu season anymore?  Doesn't it seem like it pretty much happens all year.   Get though the sickness, let your body recover and listen to what it's telling you. 
  • Injury - An unfortunate part of the any sport, but can happen at any time of the year.  Overuse, crashes, etc. 
  • Fatigue - As a coach, we are constantly dealing with athletes and fatigue, trying to identify the true reasons for it.  So  much is out of our control and dealing with fatigue is one of the more common issues every cyclist at every level deals with.

Those are just a few of the events that can force us to alter the plan and reassess.  And that is the key, reassess.  Discuss with your coach and reroute your training in the right direction.  Just like a plane flying into a strong weather system, they make the safe adjustment to avoid danger and fly around the storm.

And one strong bit of advice.  Don't try to make up time lost because of life events.  One of the biggest mistakes an endurance athlete can do is try to make up time by doing more.  It can only lead to the potential of fatigue and injury.

In summary, making plans for any area of bike racing is important.  But what is more important is the overall monitoring of these plans and adjustments made to get them back on track. Most plans never follow the path they were intended to.  So, pay close attention, understand that adjustments will have to be made, stay positive and focused!

Ride safe and ride strong!

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