I talk a lot about this idea of skills. I use skills for traditional ‘bunny-hop’ type skills and also more practical or theoretical tasks we must accomplish while on bike, such as drinking, eating, pacing. One skill I have been working on more and more with clients is exploration.
Exploration, as I am using it, encompasses training and moving in a fashion beyond intervals and numbers. It includes a willingness to be a beginner, get lost, to have an ‘imperfect’ ride, to ride longer/shorter then the plan and to think about navigation and where we are in the world. The more I see athletes explore their movement and their environment the more I see them finding additional reasons to ride/train/race OUTSIDE OF RESULTS. Navigating new areas, learning new skills, enjoying an adventure with friends all improve wellness, fitness and–I am suggesting– performance.
Team Quebec Touring the Best Roads in Oxnard, Ca
Health and Wellness for athletes has been the main goal behind ‘smart athlete’ since I started out on my own as a coach. While I have always loved adventure and ‘crazy’ trails/rides this is not something I have really taught or encouraged much. Over the last year it seems the more I share my own personal love of exploration and help others start exploring the more they start ‘enjoying the journey’. By Exploration I mean taking new routes, trying new skills, doing the same workout a bit differently. So this applies to both movement practice (skill work) and actual route choice and training-partner inclusion in training.
Tools for those who want to use Tech to ease into Exploring:
- Strava Heat Maps (see where others ride the most)
- GPS->GPX Converter (take googlemaps link and make a file for your garmin)
- Googlemaps to look at routes
Talking about the adventure is at least half of the enjoyment!
I find that athletes, especially those with training plans, coaches and/or goals often loose the fun in riding/moving and focus too much on ‘training perfectly’; they become very externally focused on numbers/results. As this exploration and socialization is lost the ability to go out and ‘train’ everyday eventually becomes very difficult, even for the most introverted and dedicated athlete. We can ride the same route–or the trainer–for a year and do ‘perfect’ workouts but this monotony and singular focus will eventually lead to burnout. There is a time for very focused workouts but it is not nearly as much as we think. I have moved more and more in my own training towards being about 80% ‘perfect’ most days and aiming to be a bit more tight in the final weeks before a big event.
3 Ways you can add more exploration to your training
1) Take a different route, even just trying a new road or path as an out and back, every time you ride. You will quickly learn to connect different areas and expand your options.
2) Try different lines, especially on familiar trails … often there are older less worn in routes, more technical routes or even less efficient routes that challenge your movement ability.
3) Look at a map before and after you go – right out some road names and try exploring. Just leaving the house without a direction can be good but often leaves us doing the same old thing. After you have an adventure make sure you pull out a map and figure out where you were so that your own mental map is improved.
4) Join a group ride or let a friend do the navigation, even if they don’t know where they are going. Often fresh eyes make awesome discoveries … even a dead end can be an awesome spot to be.
5) Try taking a skill session or getting a tour in a new area or even in an area near your home. Riding with others can open up new trails very quickly.
P.S. If you are looking to ease into Coaching Check out Pre-Made Plans on Training Peaks OR get a 100% Made for You Plan at SmartAthlete.ca