The greatest skill you can acquire to improve your cycling, running or any physical exercise is learning to listen to your body. It is easy to say, but really what is it? How do you do it? What do you look out for?
Listening to your body is understanding how much training it needs to improve. What type of training, learning how to ignore the program and knowing when to push that little bit harder. These are attributes that help distinguish good athletes from great athletes and affect their incline of improvement.
Our bodies are absolutely incredible. They are extremely adaptable organisms and we often don't give them enough credit for this. Do something once and it shock it in adaptation (a training effect). Do something twice and it reinforces that adaptation. Do something a third time and you will maintain the adaptation, not improve it.
Having a structured routine or training program is the essential first step. The rest of our lives have structure. We go to work at the same time each day (well, most of us!). We eat at similar times of the day and our hormones unbeknown to us are released each day, everyday at similar times. This is why a consistent training program is essential. It creates routine so our bodies know what to expect. Then within that routine, that word crops up again if we want to improve: adaptation.
For adaptation your consistent routine needs to be changed regularly. Sounds hypocritical! Alas it isn't. This simply means training on the same days week in, week out, at the same time of day but what you do within those sessions must continually change to improve or adapt. Once you have that routine you will notice trends and these will teach you how to adjust your program to gain the most out of your training time. As an example some people respond to hard/easy routines while others respond to hard/hard/easy/easy routines. But you never find this out until you stick to a routine and listen. Likewise some people feel best exercising in the morning, or at night. These small tweaks help you listen to what is best for you.
And finally a training diary helps you see those trends and reinforce the lessons that your body is teaching you. You will notice distinct themes of improvement or tiredness and will be able to adjust your program appropriately. So listen, establish a routine, record information and let your body teach you. It knows best.
Amy Taylor is an Auckland based Exercise Physiologist and Cycling Coach. She is one of the founders of Kinetic Edge Training Technology, and along with other coach's offers cycling skills training on a one on one or group basis. Kinetic Edge also offers programming for specific events, and personal coaching. For further information see www.kecycling.com or contact her directly on firstname.lastname@example.org