Most athletes hit a plateau at some point during the season, and it’s frustrating. A typical season begins with enthusiasm high and an eagerness for training and goal achievement. Improvement comes quickly as the athlete trains hard in anticipation of early-season events.
These events come and go, the training gets harder and improvement isn’t as noticeable. Fatigue often sets in as the athlete trains longer and harder and performances suffer.
The athlete then questions the training method and either changes it or works harder, thinking they need to train more in order to reverse the slide. This then creates a downward spiral of training harder and harder with results getting worse and worse.
All of a sudden, training isn’t fun any more: the eagerness from the beginning of the season is gone, and is replaced by frustration. Not only is training not fun any more, it’s become a drudgery.
This stage often occurs right about now. How are you feeling? Are you still looking forward to training, racing and achieving your goals? If not, it’s time to step back and get re-focused.
Motivation is one of the most important factors necessary to long-term improvement. So if you’re experiencing a lack of enthusiasm, a lack a motivation, you need to get it back.
This is easy to say, but how does one actually get motivated?
First of all, we have to determine what’s caused our motivation to wane. This typically comes from one of a couple sources:
- Lack of specific goals – if we are targeting very specific goals, whether these be races, events, a specific body weight, etc, it’s easier to keep on track. So if you’re lacking a key long-term goal, which is then supported by shorter term goals, this could very well be your source of frustration. Contact me if you need help setting your goals.
- Too much work/not enough recovery – Improvement is the result of the body’s adaptation to stress placed on it through training. This adaptation occurs during rest, so no rest = no improvement. Everyone requires a different amount of recovery, but each week should include some easy days and complete recovery days. These days should be planned for and scheduled into each week.
In addition, recovery “weeks” should be planned as well. You might need several days of recovery every 3 weeks, 4 weeks or some other time period, but you DO need recovery weeks. These recovery weeks are not completely “off,” but instead are comprised of fewer training hours and reduced intensity level.
Keeping fresh and rested helps keep the motivation level high. So if you’re not building in enough recovery, this might be an area for you to look at.
- Poor nutritional habits – We can’t “out-exercise” poor eating habits. An active lifestyle requires quality nutrition. If your weight hasn’t dropped to where you feel it should be, considering activity level, or if you feel sluggish or don’t have then energy level you should, look into your eating habits. Keeping a food journal for 3-7 days is the first step.
- Back off! If all else fails, simply take a few days off the bike. Continue to exercise, but do so at a lower level and do something else. It’s easy to get stale when you do the same thing day after day after day.
Have you experienced a mid-season slump? How have you gotten yourself out of it? Share your insights below, then GET OUT AND RIDE!