November 30, 2016
We're in the phase of our training where we re-test all of our riders. Their annual check up, if you will. Riders have been away from our program for a few months over the summer/fall, and are now coming back for a solid season of indoor training. We want to ensure that they're using appropriate intensity/power levels when they're in class, and thus require them to be (re-)tested upon entry into the program.
When we test, we aren't looking for personal bests. We're not expecting improvement (or regression) from their previous test/s. All we're looking for are their current numbers, their current fitness. So that we can proceed with suitable training in their very next class/workout with us.
The general mentality of athletes coming into their assessment, however, is one of anticipation, expectation, and perhaps nervousness. If their test is not their first one, they tend to want to see improvement over their previous test results. And/or they delay their testing until they feel 'fitter than ever' and can post their best test results. This is understandable at an emotional, self-esteem level. But it defies logic and rational thought.
Other athletes come in, get tested and typically receive results that are not what they had expected. Oftentimes, the results are lower than what they had anticipated. When such is the case, the athlete is usually comparing the current results to a previous peak result (i.e., in the late spring or early summer when fitness is the highest). They're not usually making a year-to-year comparison. We encourage athletes, if they need to compare results, to compare year-to-year tests. If you were tested this past week, then try comparing your result to testing/fitness in and around November/December of last year. Don't compare it to early and mid summer form. That's not being fair to yourself.
What we typically find is that, provided relatively consistent riding:
-an athlete tests lower in Oct/Nov than they would in May to Jul.
-an athlete tests the same or, as is more often the case, higher than the same time one year ago
-their in-class training zones come down a bit or a lot (compared to the zones they peaked at late spring and early summer)
-their in-class training zones are the same, and most often, higher than they were this time last year
Training is a process. With ebbs and flows. Highs and lows. Growth and recovery. Ups and downs. You get the point.
All this to say that "It'll be okay." So long as you're training, consistently, you're going to be okay. And don't confuse "consistently" with "frequently". "Frequently" is a relative term. If you're a once a week rider, then so be it. Consistent riding in your case is riding once a week every single week. If you're a five-times-a-week rider, then consistent riding for you is 4 to 6 workouts each and every week. What matters is that you're a) consistent, and b) using current/accurate zones in training. You do that, and you'll be okay.
If, as the case likely is, you're at a lower fitness than you were earlier this year, that's normal. Normal. As in, it's the case with nearly every other athlete you know. The exceptions would be someone who's training for a late season race, and the beginner athlete who keeps getting fitter every single month (which only lasts so long, by the way). Otherwise, every single athlete you know is less fit today than they were at their peak this past season. And, it's okay. It's normal. It's not just you.
Your fitness will come back. It's our job at WattsUp to make sure that's the case. Hell, we'll fake your subsequent test results to make it happen. Just kidding. Though it's tempting to do so. Just kidding, sort of. Anyway, the point being that your fitness will come back. And remember this: it's easier to build back to a previous fitness level than it is to build to that fitness level for the first time. That's powerful. It'll be just as hard to etch new fitness levels over and above your previous peak fitness. But getting to that previous peak level is easier than getting there the first time around. Trust us.
So get your butt back in the saddle. The running shoes back on. The Speedos back on. Scratch that. Go with jammer shorts or drag shorts instead. Regardless, get back in the pool. Start training again. Easy at first. Re-establishing your training consistency, whatever that is for you. And your fitness will return over time. Don't wait until the New Year to start. That's what everyone else does. Not you.