I got back into the lab with Paul at Cardiff Metropolitan University today. This was the second time I’ve been there, and it was just as useful as the first visit, but in many different ways.
Along with a couple of on-bike tests, I had the chance to catch up with JP from Help for Hero’s who has previously given me some training advice. We had a good discussion about the techniques for the challenge and how to approach it on the day(s), as well as covering some training concepts and other perspective to consider including performance psychology.
Fittingly, we also had a gentleman in the lab who is a PhD student working on Sport Psychology. We chatted about a few ideas as well and it fits nicely into a more encompassing training regime that could be developed for work further down the line. It’s well known that psychology has a big impact on your physical performance and how you can extract the most out of yourself. But, it seems that this more than any other aspect, has the potential to be the most fragile of all the process for it’s incredibly easy to go off track with it, and can be quite difficult to get back on track.
Case in point: While Paul and JP developed a plan for my testing today I had the simple task of riding. As an experiment, the plan was to ride the two courses of the challenge: a 5-mile run-up followed by a 200 metre max power timed section, or a 2.5-mile run-up followed by a 200 metre max power timed section. Simple as this is, there’s a lot of strategy and a lot that can influence it.
For starters, my training is predominantly on my own. When in the lab previously, Paul was present but he was going about his tasks so I could largely ignore him and any potential influence. But today, I had an additional three people the lab and it had a noticeable impact. When it came time for the sprint, there was a lot of cheering and encouragement, and while that was great and supportive, I later realised it completely changed how I performed the sprint.
Normally during a max power sprint, I’m quiet and focused, but this time I was just the opposite, shouting, growling, and without realising it, putting my focus on elements other than putting power into the pedals. Normally, my sprints have largely been what I might surprisingly call, “meditative.” They are simply a single task that takes all my focus, challenging all my energy into one specific process and disregarding all others. Today it was just the opposite. All around, today was a day of opposites. I didn’t ride the way I normally do and it showed.
But all in all, the hardest part of today was the second test, where I hit the wall and couldn’t keep going. Normally, no matter how hard a sprint would be I’d churn through it, for better or worse. I picture riding on a burning bridge over a lake of lave: There’s no other choice but to keep going. Today, I couldn’t do it, though. But, as we talked after the ride, that to be honest, made me feel like the most novice of amateurs, there’s no point in thinking about the “fail”, you can only learn from it, and that I will. The day could’ve had the most perfect results, but, I’ve probably gained far more from a less than perfect performance, and that’s worth it.
Now, I was fortunate to be in the lab today as I was slipped in between the testing that Steve went though. Steve is a nice gentleman who transitioned from handcycling to skiing. So, today was his day to go through his own testing. It was Impressive seeing his performance levels as well as his training rig. Given that he was kind enough to let me slip in while he was resting, I thought the least I could do was be dead weight to help brace his rig so he could focus on applying power.
Lessons learned today: Even being dead weight can make for a useful contribution in the right life environments and, find where you need to focus and how to do that, and don’t waver. No matter what, stick with the focus you’ve found.