The Covid-19 outbreak is an unprecedented time and most likely far beyond what most of us had ever imagined. Most, if not all athletes, have been thrown into uncertainty regarding what their seasons will look like. Events that we have been training for all winter long have suddenly disappeared from the calendar. From professionals to amateurs, there are larger questions looming about how long this will last and how the virus will affect us personally and financially.
Undoubtedly, the question “What am I training for?” has popped into all of our heads in the last few weeks. It can certainly be difficult to set goals and training priorities for a race that may be canceled. The temptation for many is to just quit training altogether and binge-watch… or binge-eat. In a stressful time, this is the last thing we should be doing. Exercise has profound benefits, both mentally and physically. In order to remain motivated, we must recalibrate our goals.
A Long Term Focus
Close to the season, most of us are highly motivated by an approaching event. It’s the thing that gets you out training every day, the beacon that allows you to push through the tough weather and hard training sessions. When your event is in jeopardy, the motivation can wane. We can not control whether or not a race is run, but we can control our bodies. We must transition from an external focus to an internal focus. Focus on being the best you that you can be.
With the absence of events and perhaps extra time on your hands, this is the perfect time to set personal goals for yourself. One way to do this is to think long-term. Think about where you want to be six months or a year from now. The thing about sports is that everyone, even the most elite athletes, can improve. These improvements are the results of year-on-year building.
In fact, certain adaptations, like mitochondrial biogenesis and increased capillarization can continue to improve for many years, which is why some athletes do not have a breakout performance until the latter years of their careers. Remember that training is not only about peaking for one event, but it is also a long-term biological process. A highly motivated athlete can take advantage of this time to seed those long-term improvements.
Improving Your Weaknesses
With the absence of any events in the near future, now is a perfect time to get specific and address your limiters. During the season, it’s all about preparing for an event, but right now, you can take the time to focus extensively on improving the areas that may be holding you back.
For some, this could mean training your sprint or your 5-minute power. For others, it could be improving your body composition. Take some time to identify two or three weaknesses that you want to improve. Think about what has held you back in past events. If you’re not sure, you could ask your coach or even a training partner to give an unbiased opinion.
Short Term Goals
Even with a long-term focus, you still need short-term goals to keep you motivated. Two or three week blocks intended to improve key areas can represent these short term goals. After you’ve identified the areas you want to improve, set realistic short-term goals to help you make progress towards those improvements.
For example, if you want to improve your time trailing ability, design a training block targeting this ability. Create workout sessions focused on key elements, like your ability to generate power in the time trial position, or raising your lactate threshold. You can even tinker with your position and improve flexibility if those are limiters for you. A goal for this block could be to raise your threshold power in the aero position by 15 watts by the end of the block.
For some, this time represents a perfect opportunity to improve nutrition and/or body composition. With social distancing measures in place across much of the globe, not many will be going out for ice-cream or beers with their buddies. This is a time when you can personalize every element of your nutrition, and reach your ideal body composition without distractions.
In a recent video, 2017 ITU World Champion Lionel Sanders was asked: “What are you training for?” Lionel responded with: “I’m just trying to be a better person…exercise makes me a better person.”
While it might be tempting to, don’t let this time go to waste. Right now is a unique opportunity simplify our lives and feel gratitude for our amazingly intricate bodies that can think, feel, move, improve, adapt, and overcome… Get out there and be the best you can be!