These are my top 4 reasons why this is the way to train if you are serious about improvement. The alternative is to continue training with a fluffy, “hope what I’m doing in training is right and I hope there is magic on race day” approach. Sorry to be so forward with this but I feel it’s probably one of the most missed concepts by serious athletes and what typically separates the top of the field from the rest.
1) Never once with any of the athletes I have coached or do coach have I seen an athlete magically beat what their performance indicators (20 min wattage, 5k pace, 400 yard TT pace) tell us they should do. They are typically in-line with expectations unless slower because something went drastically wrong. Almost never faster.
2) Numbers provide focus in training. Focus is one of the keys to long term progress that keeps you pressing on your previous bests. Without numbers, your body wants to stay where it is so your training will do the same. You’re likely to go too hard on recovery days and not hard enough on key days.
3) Unfortunately there is no magic on race day. Typically folks who train and race by feel, believe there is some level of magic that will occur on race day…..this is simply not true. Knowing what you are capable of and executing that on race day accordingly will result in what’s expected based on your training. Unrealistic race goals that are pulled from thin air result in disappointing performances as well as detrimental pacing strategies.
4) Unfortunately, many people connect some emotional/personal basis to their goals (i.e., they just choose a race goal because that is the time they would LIKE to do with no real physical basis for that goal). That’s not what goals should be about and typically results in failure. The emotional/personal part should be executed in training as you make sacrifices to hit the goal performance indicator numbers you’d like to. Once race day comes, it’s about executing your plan and letting those numbers (the one’s you’ve created in training) unfold. Then, it’s back to the emotional/personal as you enjoy the result of your sacrifices.
Sorry this paints such an objective picture of racing, but after 10+ years in the sport, I can tell you that there is no magic. The closest thing is the magic that allows age group athletes to work 40+ hours, take care of their children/family, and still train 25+ hours per week……that’s magic.
Happy New Year!