When the nights draw in and the mornings get darker, it's a good time of year to reflect on how your riding has been going. Taking stock of your levels of performance, whether striving for competitive excellence or merely seeking to maintain a level of fitness, is an important stage in planning your training and competition as the autumn and winter months draw in.
Follow these four steps to give your riding an autumn health check:
1. Break down the key parts of your performance. Give yourself a list of qualities required by a rider to be an effective performer. Some of these will be more obvious than others, such as stamina, good nutrition and hill-climbing ability, but others will be personal to you. Also ensure you consider behaviours that you need in training as well as competition. Try to give yourself a list of at least ten qualities, and if you get stuck ask colleagues about what they think makes a good rider.
2. Give each of the qualities identified in stage one an importance score out of 10 for how crucial they are for effective performance. For instance, if you're a time trialler, hill-climbing ability, while important, may not be crucial and might only get a mark of seven or eight out of 10. As you identified key qualities in stage one, it's unlikely anything will get less than a five or so, but resist the temptation to say everything is crucial and giving it all a score of 10.
3. Give each quality a performance score. If a mark of one is as bad as it could get and 10 is as good as it could possibly be, score each of the qualities identified in grade one based on your current levels of performance. It's important to try to be realistic about your scores.
4. Finally, give each quality a priority score. To do this, multiply the importance score by the performance score for each of them. For instance, if I'd scored the importance of my hill climb ability as a seven and my current performance levels as a six, my priority score would be 42. The higher the score, the greater the need for you to address this quality in your riding in the coming months. Look at your list and focus on addressing the highest-scoring five qualities.
Once you've completed the task, use this method to review both the importance and performance scores periodically, because it will help you to prioritise your training and competition schedules, and also provide you with feedback on how you're progressing in the most important parts of your riding.