This time of year has our motivation at an all-time high! We have our goals firmly fixed in front of us, we are in our training routines, we have great weather (most of the time) and we are all fired up about training harder and longer than we ever have! This is all fine and great, but we must ensure during these times of heightened motivation that we stay grounded, not getting caught up with “keeping up with the Joneses”.
I have seen this a hundred times if I have seen it once: athletes try to do as much as or more than other athletes doing the same events as them no matter what. This is a dangerous game to play for many reasons. Each athlete has his/her own level of fitness, time and freedom. Each has a plan specific to his/her lifestyle, needs and goals.Copying others volumes and intensities does not work. Many of the people I work with are Type A personalities and the reason they are successful in their professional careers is because they do more than everyone else or more than is required. This is not always the case when training on the bike once you achieve a high level of fitness. This is a tough concept to grasp for people that have been rewarded for doing more all the time in other aspects of their lives!
Often times, having people in our training groups with similar goals motivates us to keep training even when we don’t feel up to it. However, there is a flip side to that coin if motivation gets out of control. Before we know it, we are comparing ourselves against other athletes’ workouts instead of comparing ourselves within our own plans. Then suddenly, we are doing too much in hopes of staying even or doing more than those Joneses. This causes us to worsen.
The easy fix is to have a plan and stick to it. Doing more because someone else is doing more is simply not effective. I have fallen into that trap myself as a professional cyclist. It took me a few really bad months to learn that I could not handle the training or racing volume that many of my teammates could handle or even needed to do. I simply had a different physiology and I needed more rest and far less volume to compete at my best.
This issue is often seen in collegiate sports with everyone training the same. As a result, many collegiate endurance athletes don’t reach their own, individual potentials because they are overtrained in programs, for most schools, that are not customized for every runner, swimmer or biker. They often train as a team and compete as a team. If the program works, the athletes do well, but if it is too much, they either burn out, overtrain or get injured. At the collegiate level, it is a difficult problem to solve with mandatory meets and training times for teams. Having 30 kids on different schedules is just not practical for most collegiate coaches and programs. For most of us though, that is not the case. WE have a fair amount of control over our training time and intensity; therefore, adjusting our plans is very easy.
Doing less than our peers can, at times, be difficult for some of us. Our egos and our minds convince us that we are falling behind. Trust me, our bodies will thank us later as we continue to grow steadily throughout the year. Trying to keep up with others becomes mentally stressful as well, so just stay the course, and trust your plan and your own instincts.
I’m bringing this up because I see my Leadville group starting to have this vibe. The desire to do well at the event is driving training decisions. We lose our objectivity because we are in the thick of it, want to do well and start reacting to what we see around us. It causes us to look at other athletes and what they are doing instead of focusing on our own plan and where we are individually. Training at this level cannot work this way. Once you are fit, you have to be smart and do what is necessary to maintain it, not do more because someone else did more. This is the quickest way to fry yourself to a crisp and will require months of dedication to come back.
One last thing, if you ever question whether to train more or rest more: rest! If you feel you need a rest and everyone else is going long, do what is best for you and forget about “keeping up with the Joneses”. After all, in the end, who knows? Maybe the Joneses won’t be able to hold your wheel!