Guidelines For Over-Achievers: Defining What ‘Extra Credit’ Looks Like For A Training Cyclist
Cycling, and Endurance Sport as a whole, is filled with “over-achievers”.
Although this may not come as a surprise, it might never have occurred to you that by reading training articles from professional coaches or scouring the internet for updates on products in an effort to ride faster, stronger, or longer might make YOU an over-achiever.
But what does “over-achieving” mean for the busy Athlete trying to balance family, work, and all the other things that fill our fast-paced lives?
Does it simply mean doing more or going harder on every ride?
In one word, NO, but let us elaborate.
f you have ever been so exhausted you could hardly pedal, that makes you an over-achiever in our book!Photo Credit: Danny Munson, DMunsonPhoto.com
At Wikipedia they characterize “overachievers” like this:
“Individuals who perform better or achieve more success than expected.”
The website goes further to state,
“The implicit presumption is that an "overachiever" is achieving superior results through excessive effort.”
To explore this idea of “extra effort” and help make this training investment as purposeful as possible, we compiled the following guidelines for cycling’s over-achievers to help you perform better in all aspects of your riding.
Over-Achieving On An Interval Workout
With training methodology shifting to encompass more and more High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) protocols, the over-achiever could be forgiven for thinking that if some intervals are good, more must be better!
In fact, a greater quantity of intervals is not usually better.
Most high-performing cyclists are better served by adding more effort, be it wattage or heart-rate to their diet of intensity work.
That is to say that if 8min. Climbing Repeats are prescribed, doing them at a higher wattage target is more appropriate and beneficial than adding an extra interval or making them 2min. longer.
For High-Intensity efforts (anything above threshold) think of more power, not more duration being the right way to score some extra credit.
However, once power diminishes and you can’t sustain the required output for the prescribed effort, it’s time to “pull the plug” and end the workout.
Also, it should be said that this wisdom applies almost entirely to threshold and harder efforts.
When performing sub-threshold work, “over-achieving” takes on a different look. See the next topic…
Overachieving on an endurance ride is best done by adding duration, not intensity to the workout, just as the rider above did. Note: Read the last line of the workout description!
Over-Achieving On An Endurance Workout
As stated above, “over-achieving” on an endurance workout or sub-threshold day should not look the same as doing so on an interval day.
If you have the ‘legs’ and the drive to over-achieve on an endurance ride, don’t ride harder. Instead, ride longer within the parameters prescribed.
This is because there are specific physical adaptations that endurance workouts target. And these aerobic and neuro-muscular developments require disciplined-pacing and restraint to acquire.
Basically, riding harder on an endurance day in the name of ‘over-achieving” is counter-productive.
By riding longer and maintaining the narrow pacing-targets of a proper endurance ride your body will reward you with a greater training adaptation than simply training ‘harder’.
This is an example of a well executed Recovery Ride, this Athlete hit nearly every workout target perfectly, but most importantly, they kept the effort ridiculously light!
Over-Achieving On A Recovery Day
Active Recovery or ‘easy spins’ are arguably the most misunderstood workout for Endurance Athletes.
Although it can seem that anything lighter than a HIIT routine can be termed ‘recovery’, that is not the case.
Being the best Endurance Athlete requires development of a full-range of skills, tools, and elements of fitness, one of which is performing restorative ‘workouts’ such as an easy-spin.
To appropriately “over-achieve” on a Recovery Ride, we emphasize doing the least amount of work necessary to remove built-up lactic acid and fatigue from your legs.
That is to say that “over-achieving” on a recovery day is doing less.
More than just less, we suggest doing the absolute minimum.
The caveat here is that when output is reduced sufficiently, duration can remain intact or even increase.
By that we mean a 60-90min. Recovery Ride, sometimes even 2hrs., is possible but only if the intensity is absolutely minimal.
We recommend using the TrainingPeaks metric, Intensity Factor, as your guide for knowing how much work is too much.
By keep this value well below 0.50 you can rest assured you are performing a proper Recovery Ride.
In order to have an incredible event, an Athlete must be well-trained, but also well rested. Thus they should apply their over-achieving tendencies differently to influence their performance in the most positive way. Photo Credit: Danny Munson, DMunsonPhoto.com
Over-Achieving Ahead Of A Big Event
Knowing how to “over-achieve” is critical for the Athlete looking to perform their best on event day.
As the saying goes, “it is better to be 5% under-prepared than 1% over-trained”.
If you are an over-achiever, reading that wisdom and considering leaving 5% fitness ‘on the table’ can seem like blasphemy.
But rest assured, the sage wisdom referenced above is backed by generations of “over-achievers” pushing hard trying to squeeze every ounce of fitness out of their training time, right up to the start of their goal event.
Regardless if your event is off-road or on, long or short, intense or steady-state, being adequately prepared for a big goal requires a build-up of energy reserves.
That means an important perspective change must take place in the Athletes’ mind. They must shift from applying the, “if some is good, more must be better” attitude that can serve an Athlete well during training to a “less is more” perspective ahead a race.
Leading into an important event every Athlete should focus their “over-achieving” efforts on doing the minimum workout intensity necessary to prepare their bodies for the goal event.
After plenty of heavy training, an Athletes’ body will respond to this lighter work-load by building-up its strength and adding to it’s energy stores.
Both of these reactions are natural occurrences for our bodies and will translate to more power on-hand for your big event, which can give you the ‘extra gear’ needed to perform beyond your expectations!
We hope this article has shown that “over-achieving” is not all always about going harder or “excessive effort” as Wikipedia refers to it.
More often than not doing extra requires an Athlete to strike a balance between the “if some is good, more must be better” approach and the reality that in many cases “less can be more”.
It is with that in mind that we encourage your recovery rides to be ridiculously easy, your endurance days to be as long as your busy schedule allows, and interval workouts include higher intensity instead of being watered down with more workload than your current fitness can handle.
By understanding these guidelines and folding them into the individualized training plan your coach outlines, your overachieving tendencies will serve you well and pilot you to your very best performances!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian and Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching
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