Endurance training can be long, repetitive, and at times it can even be a little boring. It is easy to get into a rhythm burning calories, floating along, looking at the countryside, enjoying the sun but not actually improving.
Our bodies are wired like this: we do something once and a pathway is carved, so that next time we do that same thing our body returns instantly to the pre-paved pathway, or the "path of least resistance." Biologically this is of great use, but it is of great detriment if we want to improve that aspect of riding.
Lets take hill climbing as an example.
It is easy to get into the habit of climbing at a certain cadence, at a certain speed and so on. Changing to an easier gear out of habit or not following your friends who have just accelerated because you are resigned to being a slower climber. This is riding in your pathway, in your automatic pilot. It is your habit, and also your greatest limitation to improvement.
How do you change this? First of all find out what your habits are. Do you always change to a 23 up that hill on the way home, and turn the pedals at 65rpm? Find out what you do, and change it. Make yourself conscious of what you are doing at each moment on your rides. Each time you are riding think about the way you are riding. Force yourself out of your comfort zone in technique, in cadence, in intensity, and in terrain, instead of thinking about what to have for dinner.
I consistently hear comments such as "I pulled a big lap at the front, because I knew I wouldn't have a chance in the sprint." Or, "I let them ride off up the hill because I knew I couldn't keep up with them." These practices are not only limiting your performance in that moment, but your ability to improve doing that one thing you have resigned yourself as unable to do. Every time you give 100% to something that is not one of your strengths you will improve it. Each time you don't, you won't.
Genetics research has shown that while we may be predisposed to certain strengths and weaknesses, we can change the expression of our genes. Daniel Coleman so aptly summarized it saying, "while biology constrains certain outcomes, it does not determine what can happen." You maybe a slow climber, but with conscious training, a good training programme, and the right attitude, you can turn yourself into a great climber.
In essence, if you don't try, you don't change.
Amy Taylor is the New Zealand cycling coach of the year. She is the author of the "Lake Taupo cycle challenge guide" due out in October through Awapress, and full time cycling coach with Kinetic Edge (www.kecycling.com) training beginner to elite cyclists. She can be contacted on 09 3687819 or firstname.lastname@example.org