Making any kind of change to a routine is scary for just about anyone. There’s a level of comfort that goes with the predictability and expectation of the outcomes from following habits and routines in everything we do. Humans are creatures of habit. The advantage to sticking to routines are many and not limited to the aforementioned; but there are also some disadvantages.
It’s always worth trying something new if it could make you faster, healthier, or smarter but, like most things in life, it’s all about timing.
There are many topics I could cover when it comes to how, when, and why to make changes to one’s training, racing, nutrition, equipment, coaching, teams, clothing, riding style… as well as what not to do. But since it’s different for everyone, I’ll just talk about some general rules that apply across the board.
First, if you’re thinking about making multiple changes (i.e. you want to experiment with a different tire brand and a new pair of shoes and try solid fuel during your group ride rather than just liquid/gel nutrition), I would suggest changing one thing at a time if at all possible.
My scientific background has taught me that data gathered from changing only one part of your regiment at a time is much more reliable. It’s also easier to notice nuances in the differences that the changes make when you are only focusing on one at a time. Ultimately, you know your body and equipment better than anyone, so use your best judgement and trust your gut.
Additionally, try one (or a few) changes more than just once and ideally under different conditions. For example, a new set of tires might perform great on dry surfaces but leaving you wanting more traction when it’s wet, or a new chamois could rock your world for the first 30 miles but longer rides – maybe not so much.
Finally, never, ever, ever, EVER try something new on race day. Outside of the obvious reasons – blisters from new shoes, pain and discomfort from a different seat position, or a sour stomach from nutrition changes – depending on tried and true practices gives you more confidence to keep your head in the game.
The beginner or amateur athlete has the advantage of not being committed to certain equipment or brands because of sponsorships, but the disadvantage of having to front all the cost. On the other extreme, the professional athlete oftentimes has the huge advantage of receiving ‘free’ or reduced cost equipment and services but has limited options.
A beginner cyclist has greater flexibility in choosing when and what changes to make to equipment, nutrition, training plans, etc while the professional is more or less committed to certain brands, race days, teammates, coaches, and directors.
Just like any other professional, the athlete has also been doing what they do for a long time and have become comfortable with equipment, training, and nutrition. They trust and can predict how it will perform, wear, and digest. The ability of the professional athlete to adjust to new equipment, team, and locations between seasons is a whole other skill set and psychological strength that also takes time to develop.
To start down that path, set a routine and stick with it, make changes one at a time, pay attention to the effects, and keep track of what works best for you.
By Heather Nielson, Seattle Washington – Heather is a professional cycling coach for Cycle University in Seattle Washington. In her spare time she enjoys reading, art, cooking and spending time with friends. Follow her at www.ridempowered.com, @ridempowered on twitter, and facebook.