For a mountain biker who looks forward to a summer of racing all year long there are times during the year which may leave you feeling a little dissatisfied, such as having to take time out due to injury or during the colder and darker months of the year. The good news is that this can be spent in a productive manner while allowing you to reset your body and mind.
As an athlete and a racer myself I am always looking for that extra edge to push me to the next level. I have spent the last year and a half in and out of competition due to a complicated injury; most of this period was spent trying to regain my athletic abilities rather than pushing on to the next level in competition. It was then identified that I would have to have a second surgery, which took place at the end of June. Through this frustratingly slow sequence of events I have had some time to reflect on past achievements and reassess the direction of my sporting career. With that in mind I thought I would also take this time to share some of the techniques and processes that I applied in gaining an increased level of sporting performance. Since this approach has more of a preparation-process-psychological focus this can be applied to any athlete whether a youth or adult at club level looking to make the jump to regional level competition or highly performing national level athletes looking to get a taste of international competition.
This recipe has been tweaked and tested since 2007 when I sustained my first major injury as a professional downhill mountain biker. Yes, Downhill Mountain biking is synonymous with injury and I have had my fair share of injuries, however the feeling of competing at the peak of your abilities far outweighs the consequences of the injuries. Rebounding from serious injury and getting to the top in any sport, requires critical self-evaluation, actually; achieving your best in any facet of life requires some level of critical self-evaluation. So if you are searching for improvement then you should be comfortable with at times being slightly harsh on yourself. This also applies to making gains in your abilities when you are not injured, so what better time than the off-season to start on a path towards making some serious improvements.
Now that you are on the sidelines you have some time to sit down with a pen to do some serious evaluations. Start with your Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and pressures. Assessing strengths and weaknesses is fairly straightforward and self-explanatory. Strengths and weaknesses may encompass anything from athletic ability, mental performance, location you are based, even equipment you have or don’t have. Opportunities come in basically any shape or form ranging from key target events; ones that allow you to fine-tune in the build up to larger events. For example, club champs in the run up to a national level competition, to working with a sporting mentor or alternatively you might identify a potential opportunity to meet with possible sponsors or supporters and establish initial relationships with organisations and individuals while traveling to national events during the competitive season. Pressures are the things we deal with in day-to-day life; school, relationships, work and children require a certain amount of energy out side of sporting commitments in order to manage them effectively. Work, life and sporting balance is a key to feeling like you have a full and purposeful life, however you must identify the pressures of these elements in order to improve in each area. Sometimes the training can’t be done, and that’s life.
Planning and goal setting
Ask yourself a range of questions and really hone in on defining where you are going with your sporting life.
What are your priorities? What do you need to work on right now? What can wait? Plan out your next block of training and racing culminating in a target event or series of events. Where do you want to be at the end of this next block or season?
Start by roughly sketching out a plan for the next year, with some leeway and room to make adjustments, then break it down into 3 month blocks, 1 month blocks and fortnightly blocks. The master plan gives way to the NOW which will be you main focus in day-to-day training and lifestyle.
Reflect on the plan
1. WHAT are the goals specifically? What do you want to gain out of the next training session or event?
2. WHY have you set these goals? It has to be something deeper than purely wanting to succeed, rather to challenge your self or to compete against the best in the New Zealand or the World.
3. HOW is this all going to come together? What are your requirements (equipment, nutrition, support, rest, planning, enjoyment etc.) in order to meet the goals?
• You need to constantly reassess… am I working towards my daily/weekly/annual goals in the right manner?
• Off the back of several failures you may have lost sight of the foundation you have been working from by moving too quickly through the development stages, go back to the start of the current stage you are at in the process.
• Have I achieved my last goal? Its ok if you haven’t but you need to identify and address the reasons why you did not.
• Am I ready to set new goals?
• You can’t force things to happen. Athletes develop at different rates so let things happen at a natural speed rather than pressuring yourself to ‘make something happen’.
• Give your-self time, there’s plenty of it in a lifetime to improve your abilities so don’t be impatient!
• If nothing else, simply enjoy the process of preparation and you will enjoy competing.