Training day by day: stage one

The Grey: improving your performance

When it comes to performance in endurance sports, contrary to what many people believe, there is no secret formula. Performance can be somewhat of an intangible thing, a combination of science, knowledge, sensations and art. Neither black or white, but, instead, The Grey.

In the upcoming articles, we at DaybyDay Coaching will convey to you training methods, ideas, experiences and thoughts in regards to training and ultimately improving performance. We hope to be able to open up your mind to do it, feel it, to think about it, to note it and to define what it is that your body responds to best, as we are not all the same.

What is definite about performance is that it is a special blend consisting of many elements, unique to everyone's skills, lives and desires. This holistic balance comes from defining a training process that accounts for personal attributes, utilising science and knowledge, while reflecting on experience, ensuring good rest, good nutrition, a healthy and strong mind, and having a balance of work, family and play that's appropriate for that person and their goals in sport.  

Don't get hung up on your power output. It is far from the whole story

Successfully training to improve performance is not just looking at power, heart rate, cadence, pace, technique, biomechanics, equipment, mental fortitude, tactics or nutrition - it is all of these and more, and it's important to never get too caught up in just one thing.

A great example of this is the advent of power meters in cycling.It is an amazing tool that has revolutionised training giving the ability to define the true physiological output of the athlete. But something we see more and more is a bad relationship with the wattage number that is seen on the screen. Every day, the rider is defining the success of their ride by whether they are setting new power PBs, and they are forgetting the process necessary in attaining peak performance. 

We are a firm believer that the fundamental of a successful training process is RPE - Rate of Perceived Exertion. Introduced by Gunnar Borg in 1985, RPE is a scale of how the athlete perceives the intensity of the exercise creating body awareness and taking into account the mind. Check in with the best endurance athletes in the world and they all have amazing body awareness and the ability to "feel out" their efforts - you will find that these athletes have a lot more of a holistic balance than just power numbers.

There is an art in achieving peak performance that is all about feeling this correct balance. While there is amazing knowledge behind understanding human physiology there is still a lot that stumps us and it doesn't explain the anomalies from person to person. Nobody responds the same as the next person, therefore everyone's training should be different and it is why, ultimately, all performances are different - this makes for exciting racing!  Humans are not robots.

So where do you need to begin to improve your performance? This part you can either do by yourself or enlist the help of a coach.  Do it, feel it, think about it, and note it. Training diaries are a great way to record this process, like we do with TrainingPeaks. Construct a training plan taking into account this feedback and make it specific to your individual needs. Continue the process of reviewing how it felt, what your sensations were and correlate this with each session's performance data. By acknowledging this and reviewing it, you can then optimise the direction of your training and fine tune it to pursue the perfect holistic balance for you, defining, The Grey.

Ben Day started DaybyDay Coaching to share the experience attained as a 13 year international professional cyclist to endurance athletes of all levels.  A current professional with the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team and coach to many professional athletes throughout the world, Ben provides insight and coaching services balancing science and real life experience to optimise performance.

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