by Molly Hurford
When it comes to pursuing goals, pro athletes don’t just train and call it a day. They create an optimal daily training environment. Sure, you may not be able to sleep in an altitude tent, but you can make your everyday life fit your athletic dreams better.
It’s no surprise that sleep is at the top of the list. Ask almost any pro athlete, you’ll hear that sleep is the No. 1 training tool. Many pros aim for nine or 10 hours per night, possibly sneaking a nap in midday as well. You may not be able to hit those numbers, but setting the goal of getting between seven and nine hours of sleep most nights is going to make your recovery faster so you can hit your next interval harder.
Make sure that you’re fuelling before, during and after your ride. Current cross country world champion Kate Courtney says this is one of the major changes she made in terms of her nutrition during the past few years: eating enough and eating at the right time. She adds that eating more during a ride helps avoid making less-than-healthy choices post-ride.
Flexibility might not be at the top of your goal list, but having good mobility will help you avoid injury and make you more capable of training longer. It may even improve your power as you’ll be more able to use your full range of motion and recruit muscles previously left dormant. Whether you start doing a quick morning yoga routine, use a foam roller or lacrosse ball for some self-massage or hit a yoga class a couple times a week, make sure you’re taking care of the mobility component of your training, not just the “hard” stuff.
Whether you work with a coach or make your own plan, a good athlete communicates his or her needs, even if that means just communicating honestly with yourself. Recording workouts with data, such as power or heart rate, and adding notes about how you felt, can help you keep track of progress, rather than just training haphazardly and wondering why it doesn’t feel like you’re getting faster.
Start keeping a journal
Whether you keep an official training log or just jot down a sentence or two each day about how training went, keeping track of your progress in some tangible way can show you where you’re improving slowly but steadily, and where you still need to focus. Professional runner Kara Goucher has even written a book on this topic – Strong – delving into why she keeps a “confidence journal” and what it can do for your self-confidence.