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Reset, recharge and remember why you love riding a bike…advice from 2 coaches (& LeadBoat athletes)
Uncertainty, volatility and change have become the new normal for most of us. The world has shifted into uncharted territory and COVID-19 is impacting each of us in different ways. As athletes, we’re experiencing event postponements and cancellations with an ending that is currently undefined. To help us navigate these times of uncertainty, we reached out to two LeadBoat athletes, Neal Henderson and Andrea Dvorak, who spend much of their time coaching and guiding fellow athletes.
Both Neal and Andrea have guidelines and tips that they are using personally and with the athletes that they coach. The general message is to use this time as a reset button, slow down, remember why you love riding a bike and take time to find balance. Read below for additional stories and insights from each of these coaches.
Andrea Dvorak raced professionally for 10 years with a very decorated resume including the United States Olympic Long Team for the 2012 London Olympic Games, winning a stage of the Route de France, competing in multiple World Championships, winning a silver medal in the 2011 US National Road Race Championship, and winning the Cascade Cycling Classic Stage Race.
Even while racing at the most elite level as a road cyclist, Andrea’s general philosophy has always been one of balance. After racing her road bike professionally for nearly ten years, she is now able to help the next generation of cyclists. Applying her extensive knowledge as a racing cyclist, Andrea along with several others, started the Miller School of Albemarle Endurance Team. A top priority for this team was for their student-athletes to be both successful athletes and students.
I have always encouraged a healthy balance in sport and in life, especially for younger student-athletes- go to prom, go on that family vacation, go skiing, go on that trip. Never drop one thing for another.
Now as the league director of the Virginia Interscholastic Cycling League – part of NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling League), she works with young athletes and focuses on fun and safe events. Andrea acknowledges that cycling can be an intimidating sport to get into, but recounts the discovery and love for the bike:
“After our parents let go and we venture off the driveway, the cycling world can be a scary and intimidating arena. I am sure we all have stories of our ‘first bike’, ‘first ride’, ‘first race’. My ‘first’ experience was a combination of all three – first bike, first real ride, and first race, a triathlon. At one point during the race, I had to get off my bike and walk it up the hill, because I had no idea what gears were and how shifting into an easier gear could make life easier.”
She eventually met her first coach/teacher/bike friend, Ruth Stornetta, on the University of Virginia cycling team where her love for two-wheeled adventures began.
During these uncertain and difficult times, I encourage athletes to return to the basics. Remember the feeling you had on your first mountain bike ride, or the first time you rode on a new bike or a new trail. Perhaps when riding a bike was not just “training.” It was fun.
Andrea encourages athletes to get on their bikes and just ride. Use those moments to just enjoy the feeling of being free, on two wheels, like it used to be down your driveway as a young kid.
Read all about Andrea’s adventures as a cyclist: https://www.andreadvorak.org/stories
Follow her on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/drevorak/
@nealhenderson (twitter) @nealahenderson (instagram)
Neal is a former professional triathlete who has coached endurance athletes for more than 2 decades and is the head of sports science for Wahoo Fitness.
His coaching achievements are notable, including athletes with stage wins at the Tour de France, GC podium finishes at the Giro Rosa, World Championship titles and Olympic and Paralympic medals. It’s safe to say that he has extensive experience, expertise and valuable insight when it comes to coaching athletes.
Last week Neal sent a message to his athletes, from his amateurs and masters racers to his Olympic hopefuls. Notably, the message was the same to all of his athletes
“Pulling back from training is the best thing that we can do in this time of uncertainty. Slow everything down and focus on mental, emotional and physical health.”
Neal understands exactly how mental stress impacts our physical state. “It’s almost impossible to put real deadlines on any training right now. As endurance athletes, we like to have schedules and we’re operating in a different time now. What is unique about this time is that everyone is getting input from others about what they can and can’t do. The feeling of control is being lost and managing those feelings is difficult.”
Because of the mental challenge of losing control and the uncertainty around schedules, Neal encourages his athletes to take 1-2 weeks to process everything mentally as opposed to burying themselves in training. “The cumulative mental and physical stress won’t show up in training logs or software. It’s not calculated in your TSS”. He believes that this reset in a physical and mental way will help his athletes move forward.
We asked Neal what advice he would give to those who are training for LeadBoat. Neal offered the following:
- Look at and address your limiters
Going out and doing long rides isn’t an option for most of us. If you have something that you know is a limiter, this may be a great time to address it. Whether it is a skill, an imbalance, a weak area – these things may become bigger problems when unchecked. Identify what you can address and work on them now.
- Reduce high intensity and high volume workouts
A few quality workouts per week is sufficient right now (2-3). High intensity and high volume can run down your immune system and could put you at increased risk. Physical stress coupled with mental stress add up. Now is not the time to ramp up your training. Hopefully in a few weeks we will have more firm data on what will happen.
- Minimize screen time
While following the news and staying connected are important, limiting time on screens, both big and small, will clear some space and time for us.
A couple of weeks of reduced training may be a blessing in disguise. When the weather warms up is when people often push themselves too much. Neal’s advice is to take some pressure off of yourself, dial it back and take care of those things that we can control.
Follow Neal on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/nealahenderson