I look at cycling and a desire to progress rather than just be a recreational or club rider and I can look back at my past and take some life lessons and apply to my desire to improve. I can look at some integral people around me and in my past that have been successful and examine those attributes to see how those can apply to progression. At the end of this blog entry I will name a few of those people and how they have impacted my views.
So what are those descriptors or attributes?
I will name a few that stand out to me, but there are many more. Take a moment to think about this and about those around you and think of the positive attributes. Some on my list are similar and are perhaps synonyms of each other, but I want to add them anyway.
The main descriptors I think of are commitment, determination, dedication, persistence and consistency.
There is one catch phrase that has a lot of meaning to me even though it has a negative connotation. “Keep doing what you are doing and you will keep getting what you are getting.” I don’t know who coined that phrase and there are different variations of that phrase but it is true for someone who is stuck in a rut and going nowhere fast. You cannot expect success in sports, careers or even relationships without some effort. I was fortunate to have trained in a gym with world-class lifters and bodybuilders. Individuals that have genetic ability that is like one in a million. As an observer I have seen those with genetic ability stall out because they only went as far as their genetics would take them, but never had the determination, the dedication or the consistency to push hard enough to compete once their competition became equally genetically gifted. I have seen some of those world-class lifters train exceptionally hard because that is what it took for them to compete at that level.
Commitment or dedication is something a person takes on as a personal agenda. I find it to be a mental milestone that one must cross in order to head down the right path. I think of the phrase, “you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them drink.” When I think of the many in my past that refused to cross that mental line. When I used to personal train people or they would ask me about a diet routine I would get a boatload of excuses as to why they could not do it. The correct word is not could but would. It is not that they could not do what I suggested. It is that they would not do as I suggested. There was a personal refusal to make a commitment and yet the commitment was not to me and it is not to a coach or a consultant the refusal is to one’s self. The first step to break out of the same old thing with the same old results is to make a personal commitment to the goal.
Determination is something one also must make a mental cross over in order to get on the road of success. In the context of training it may mean going to the gym when you feel tired after a long stressful day at work or it may mean that training might occur in the bitter cold winds. Determination is driving through whatever hardship or discomforting obstacle that stands in the path of success. I remember many years ago working on a farm in Kentucky. We were using a draft horse to pull a log out the woods. As the mare began pulling the log out of the woods it caught on another tree and she pulled harder. My stepfather tried to get her to ease up, but she would not relent. I could hear the chains begin to make noises and the leather harness started to creak, but it seemed as if she just became more frustrated and intent of pulling that log. She kept on trying until she uprooted the small tree that was her obstacle. Determination in my training definition is pushing through regardless of the hardship or the discomfort. Today it was pushing against a cold wind and trying to keep my wattage and speed high. It was more like pushing against a wall at times, but I was not going to give up easily. Push through it.
Persistence or consistency is something I see those who have been successful in sports, careers, school, relationships or other life events. I have rarely met a person in my life that was just handed the reward for little effort. I am sure there are plenty of those that have won or succeeded with little effort, but fortunately I have not been around those types. I want to be around those who are like me that had to dig their way out of the trench and who had to make personal sacrifices in order to succeed. I admire those who do not give up and keep trying despite some bad days or years or even reluctant genetic ability. They are relentless in their pursuit. They keep trying over and over again. I imagine many of those people, like myself, have been at times frustrated as we have watched other pass us, but we keep pursuing. Who lines up at the Olympic games with intention of running only half of the race? One lines up to win or to do better as a personal goal. Why train or go to the start line if your intention is to drop out?
Being persistent and/or being consistent is one of the greatest attributes I have ever seen in any successful person. Why do they show the inspirational stories of athletes overcoming great odds to be an athlete at the Olympic games? It is because there is a great amount of respect and admiration for anyone that keeps trying regardless of the odds. As an individual preparing for the goal or in progress of the goal that person must be prepared to have some defeats and some bad training days. There will be good days and bad days. There may be good years and bad years, but the attitude of persistent through the odds will inch a person toward meeting those goals of betterment.
Being consistent goes back to making a commitment to the goal. In the context of training I have never seen someone be long term successful by doing a hit and miss type of training schedule. A hit and miss strategy may work for the short term, but it will usually stall out and the person will become frustrated and discouraged.
There are certain physical adaptations that occur with a certain stimulus in training stress or perhaps a repetitive sport skill like batting practice that if one practices more the results will likely be better. If one is more consistent with training the results will likely be better. One needs to find out what would be a good program that would fit with their daily living features like work and relationships and then make a commitment to be consistent with the remaining time to pursue the goal with sound training principles.
Success takes time and with that for most of us it will require a commitment, dedication, determination, persistence and being consistent.
Here are some of the people in my life that I have observed and have appreciated for these attributes. There are many others, but at the moment these stand out to me.
Elizabeth McCubbin – my mother who I observed as a small child raising me and my two sisters as a single parent while teaching school in the day and going to college at night so that our lives would be better and that we would have a better chance at our future. My mother did all of these things well and did it with such grace. She had a huge impact on my inspiration and work ethic.
Annie Riveccio – is an old friend of mine that is greatly blessed in genetics for putting on lean mass. I remember the first time I saw Annie in the gym and she was a stand out with her virtually untrained lean mass. I watched her progress quickly and win the state bodybuilding championships, which qualified her for the nationals, but then it became tougher for Annie and I noticed that she had to step up her training, her commitment and she had to be persistent as it took a number years to win the nationals and become an IFBB professional bodybuilder. Annie is one of those that many of us would point the finger at and proclaim one in a million blessed genetics, but despite being blessed with genetics above most of us I witnessed her hard and dedicated work through a number of years.
Jamie Brownlow and Nancy Alexander come to my mind as my cycling friends. They stay at it and I have witnessed both of them progress the past couple of years. Recently Jamie came out of her comfort zone and not only finished the difficult 100 mile Six Gap ride, but she did it in the cold rain without her group support. She did not bail out when many would have allowed her the excuse because of the horrible weather she pursued and finished. The same can be said about Nancy, who is typically a quiet type of person about her goals. All I really hear from Nancy is that she sets her sights on an event and just goes for it with dedicated training and a focus.
Alan Pilling – I have seen Alan, who is about 68 I think, sitting in the front of cycling group in a strong headwind and while everyone behind was griping about the weather he continued to push forward as if nothing was going to stand in his way. I remember that day when I looked over at him and there was this stone like facial expression like nothing could stop him. I have witnessed Alan out ride much younger people on hill climbs and ride past young guys on the flats as if age had no impact at all.
Neal Bowers – I am not sure of Neal’s age but he is another die hard cyclist that just keeps pushing hard. It is almost as if he looks for an obstacle to overcome. Neal inspires many of us to keep pushing not only toward the goal, but to attack the obstacle while we are at it.
My goal now is to become a better cyclist. I started cycling as a recreational pursuit in 2004 to better my health with cardio, but was smitten by the cycling bug and wanted to improve. Finally this year in late June I made a commitment to take a common path of training just under my threshold and for the past several months I have remained dedicated to the pursuit. The consistency of training even on days when I feel tired or lethargic has also paid off with incremental progression. This is the right path to make as an individual to be committed, dedicated, persistent and consistent. The gains might not be exceptionally fast, but that is the point with lesser genetics. It is a slow incremental progression and I am willing to keep to the commitment as long as the Lord allows me.
Where is that zone of improvement for cycling? Here is a chart courtesy of Fastcat Coaching and Dr. Coogan for reference and one can see why my focus at the moment is in levels 3 and 4 where it seems to have the most bang for the buck and a good starting point.
Now I am going to say something that may seem a bit contradictory to everything I just wrote, but all of this has to stay in balance with all other things in life. Meaning I will stay dedicated to the training pursuit, but I will not cross the line of placing this pursuit above God, my wife or my career. I don't want to go into the bad details, but I learned in the past that those things are far more important and have much greater value to be respected, appreciated and cherished than a sport. But when I am in my allotted time of training it is then I will pursue hard.