Everyone in the World is facing uncertainty right now. It blows my mind that that isn’t even an exaggeration. The entire World has been faced with question around the future. I know that many people are suffering tremendously with the loss of loved ones, illness, financial fear and so many other truly difficult and scary obstacles.
Meanwhile, races continue to get cancelled. It feels frivolous to bring up racing when people are dealing with far greater loss. It still hurts though. For many athletes and racers, racing is the highlight of their year. Racing is the goal that motivates many people’s daily lives. Training every single day had a very specific purpose, and now it seems a little more undefined. As a professional athlete I know how this situation has influenced my own training, but as a coach I have heard a wide array of statements and questions surrounding training during this time. Here are the things that I have learned and have helped me navigate these uncertain times. It has helped me find motivation when the race schedule has been largely diminished.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
It can be challenging to process these types of emotions. I know that most racers feel at least some level of disappointment or frustration over everything that is happening. I’ve also heard a lot of people express guilt for feeling that way. It’s ok. You’re allowed to feel however you feel. Your feelings do not discount the feelings of others. The sooner you process how you feel the sooner you can move forward with the appropriate action.
Re-Define Your Identity
Now is a good time to do a little self-evaluation as to what you are allowing to define you. Have you slipped into letting your success determine your worth? It sounds almost silly when you say it out loud because we all know that workouts, numbers, and podiums don’t define us, but it’s easy to start to fall victim to that mindset. Racing is affirmation. It’s like a pat on the back that you’re doing well. Without racing, it can be challenging to find that same affirmation.
Take a step back and remember that watts and miles per hour are just a number on the screen. You can only be defined by the matters of your heart. You are valuable. You are important. You are loved- with or without your bicycle.
Re-adjust Your Training
The moment all of this erupted it felt like everybody was doing different things. Some people took time off, others took a step back into base training, others continued with progression, but I think most everyone was looking to their left and right wondering what everyone else was doing.
There is no right answer. This has never happened before. No one knows exactly when we will race again. The important thing in this moment is to speak with your coach and to do what feels right for you. It’s important to address concepts such a burn out, peak fitness, emotional and immune stress, and newly adjusted goals. Your training plan should probably look a little different or changed right now, because the world has changed right now, but those changes might be different for everyone. Don’t get caught up in what other people are doing. Be confident in your own plan.
Finally, re-establish your goals. That’s one of the first things I did as a coach. I looked through every athlete’s calendar and made sure everyone still had a goal they are reaching for. If your races have been cancelled or are now months away make some process or performance goals that you can focus on. Time trials or distance challenges are great examples of ways that you can still challenge yourself during these times.
Honor the Process
Training is the large majority of what we do anyways. We train far more days than we race each year. Take a step back to enjoy the process of training. Focus on being the best that you can be. You can still improve and make progress during this time.
Find Your Why
Remember why you started racing in the beginning. Chances are that the first time you stepped on a start line it wasn’t just to win. Did you want to challenge yourself? Did you just love feeling empowered? Were you changing your lifestyle? Maybe it was for something or someone? Go back to those roots and carry those feelings with you during this time.
Practice Patience & Let Go
We have to let go of what we cannot control. This is a little harder for me. I am someone who likes to have everything planned out to the minute. If I knew the race schedule for 2023 I would already have it laid out on a spreadsheet. I’ve tried to keep up with the changing races. My 2020 race schedule was packed full. My spreadsheet was busy and it was the perfect balance of crazy and fun. Now my spreadsheet has greatly thinned. I have a big pile of races at the bottom in red all labelled as cancelled. I’ve start to try to plug in new races that I wasn’t planning to go to, but now I might attend. It’s overwhelming. I have to let go.
We will race again. It feels far away now, but it will come eventually. I find hope in knowing that. I can wait.