Over the past year, Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast host Amber Pierce has offered key guidance on staying motivated, training skills, and creating a healthy and sustainable training process. In case you missed them the first time around, or just need a quick refresher, here are the top ten training takeaways Amber’s given on the podcast (so far!).
10. Base Training for the Mind
Amber recommends approaching skills work much like we approach training and fitness; build confidence in your foundational skills first, and then steadily work on more challenging and specialized skills closer to your goals. When you reinforce your fundamental skills first, it’s like base training for the mind. The mental base you build will help you be more confident and prepared when it’s time to work on trickier skills.
9. The Learning Zone
There’s a sweet spot for working on skills that Amber refers to as the Learning Zone. The Learning Zone is just far enough out of your comfort zone that it takes intention to work through the skill, but not so far out that you feel afraid or nervous when you are practicing. If you’re too far out of the Learning Zone and you’re battling feelings of fear, you’re at a greater risk of getting hurt, and it’s unlikely that you’ll retain a new skill set. You’ll know you’re in the Learning Zone when you feel excited and engaged.
8. Chase Performance
When it comes to nutrition, Amber recommends focusing on nourishment rather than restriction, so that you always have enough fuel to chase performance and build a strong engine. When you you take this approach to fueling, your body will find a natural way to optimize your weight and body composition, and it will never be under-fueled. Chasing performance will also help you build a stronger and more robust engine, which can help you get faster and win races.
Amber’s Nutrition Principles
7. Responding to Off the Bike Stress
Any off the bike stress you experience throughout the day can impact how you feel during your workouts. With that said, because stress is often inconsistent, it’s hard to predict exactly how stress might affect you or when it’s going to prevent you from doing a workout. If you have to make lots of adjustments on the fly to accommodate fluctuations in stress that’s okay. When stress gets in the way of your scheduled workouts, lower the intensity, opt for an easier alternative, or take the day off to focus on recovery instead.
6. You Don’t Need to Master Bike Handling Skills
You don’t have to achieve mastery to be a skilled technical rider or a strong bike handler. As Amber puts it, skills work is all about getting on the learning curve, wherever that may be, and engaging with it so that you can continue to improve at your own rate. There’s room for everyone to continue improving, and no matter how small the improvement is, it’s going to help you increase your confidence and comfort on the bike.
5. Progress Isn’t Linear
Throughout an entire season of training it’s unlikely that you’ll be on an upwards trajectory from start to finish. Your FTP might fluctuate sometimes, or the effects of daily stress and commitments might prevent you from finishing every workout in your training plan. When this does happen, don’t feel pressured to add on more volume or cram in additional workouts. The long and sure path to improvement takes patience, but it’s the best way to get to where you need to be, and more often then not it’s actually the fastest.
4. What Does it Mean to be Tough?
While mental toughness and perseverance are both key skills in cycling, it’s important not to confuse negative self-talk with being tough. Being tough isn’t being hard on yourself or leaning into negativity when you aren’t performing at your best. Instead, coming from a place of positivity, curiosity, and enthusiasm is a sustainable way to fuel real toughness and resilience, amid the many challenges of training and racing.
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3. Create Habits not Rules
Instead of setting strict restrictions or rules for yourself, try to build habits instead. Habits are easier to maintain over time, and they’re ultimately more effective. The act of building a habit is also less mentally taxing than trying to maintain a rule and a more positive way to approach your training.
2. Consistency is Key
While a huge day in the saddle might feel really productive, consistency over time is far more impactful on your progression. Progress takes time and the habits and workouts you do every day are what will make you a faster and stronger cyclist. If you want to work on consistency, try implementing a sustainable training regiment that you know you can maintain most days.
1. Develop a Growth Mindset
Fostering a growth mindset can help you achieve your goals and develop a more sustainable relationship with training. To begin developing a growth mindset Amber recommends focusing on process goals opposed to outcome goals. You can’t predict or control outcome goals, like winning races, but you can control the process goals that might help you win races. Tracking your process goals in a training journal is a great way to keep track of your progress and a helpful resource to have when you want to look back on how much you’ve already grown.
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