As people we all want to become better at what we do, be that at work, as parents, in sport or just as a person in general. Maybe you don’t, we’ve all been stuck in a rut at some point (I know I have but won’t get into that now. I’ll save it for a later date) but I’m sure you’d like to be better at whatever it is you turn your hand to, it’s part of our nature, to learn and grow.
In cycling terms I struggle to find time have a real structure to my riding due to a young family, work, and just the general time consuming nature of life itself. So when the idea of a training ride was decided on, I thought ‘great, this is just what I need.’ I think I have a decent amount of will power to push myself, but when you’re doing that on your own it’s all too easy to say, ‘right I’m done’ and sit up and just take it easy.
Last year I was doing lots of my own solo training style rides over, say 20-25 miles, I felt like I’d reached a peak and just couldn’t seem to improve on my times, week in week out, no matter how hard I seemed to try. I thought I was pushing myself and I was to a degree, but since I started doing these training rides I’ve discovered a whole new level of pushing myself and digging deep. It’s hard to replicate a fast training ride in a group when you’re out on your own. It’s different when your losing the wheel and you have to push a little harder to stay in the line. Or when you spot somebody 100 metres in front and you think ‘I can catch them,’ so you put your head down and slowly try and real them in, even though your legs are saying no and your lungs are gasping for air. It might not work and you might blow up, but you tried, you were willing to give it a go and you believed you could do it. That’s where the improvement comes from, going past your usual level and out of your comfort zone.
Another thing you can’t replicate in a solo ride is the encouragement. Sure you can tell yourself to keep going, keep pushing but that’s nowhere near as good as a friend or fellow rider overtaking you and saying ‘come on, keep going, get on my wheel, hang in there.’ It gives you a spur of motivation. They believe you can hang in there and you can. It’s like you feel obliged to do it because you don’t want to let them down. Then somebody will flick the elbow, even though you’re close to the limit. You push on again and up the revs and grit your teeth. That’s what it’s all about. Working hard and getting the rewards.
I always remember something my dad told me when I was a young lad,”If you want the nice things in life you have to work hard for them.” It applies to everything doesn’t it? If you want a nice car, house, clothes, bikes you gotta work hard, unless of course you’ve won the lottery! But if you wanna be good at cycling you gotta work hard. Now I’m not saying I’m gonna be winning the tour de France or a gold medal at the Olympics, but what I can do, by putting in a bit of hard work is be a better rider in my own small way and that’s what counts to me.
Over the last few months I’ve seen my training lap times tumble. Taking over 6 minutes off my best time over the course. At the start of the year I felt rubbish, grinding up small hills and running out of steam very quickly. Now I feel that with a little bit of training I’m able to enjoy my riding more, go further, faster and not feel like I’m struggling so much on a club run. Just getting a bit better.
But it’s not just me, it’s great to see so many are getting so much from a simple hour of riding a bike. And it’s great to see the way these rides have taken off. With men and women of all ages and differing abilities all looking for the same thing. Personal improvement, and long may it continue.