The bottom line on training: the only way to get better is by doing it.
Yes, it’s important to have a plan; there are indeed issues like overtraining and undertraining (been on both ends of the spectrum), and diet is important. But the only way to be a better runner is to go out there and run; the only way to be a better cyclist is by going out there and riding. There’s no other way.
That said, there’s a huge mental aspect to training. It’s not always fun–sometimes it hurts. It also involves doing stuff when you’re tired and would rather be sleeping or lazy and rather be drinking beer and hanging out with your friends. It requires discipline–which is just another word for a daily struggle.
What training means is not just coming up with a plan of riding two hours on Sunday, one hour on Monday, one hour on Thursday, and three hours on Saturday–it means actually doing it.
What training means to me: pumping my tires, laying out clothes, and freezing water bottles at 8:30 pm, then getting up at 4:45 the next morning, turning the lights on the bike on, and getting out on the road, hoping that you don’t have a flat or other mechanical so you can get home in time to get to work. It means coming home early from a fun night out with friends so you can get enough sleep to run ten miles in the morning.
Training is hard, but it’s what really needs to happen if you’re going to be any kind of athlete. Be smart about it, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that a plan is enough. Get out and run, get out and ride, get out and swim. There’s no other way.
I realize I’ve only generically spoken about dietary changes so far. It’s time to remedy that, so we will do that in our next episode.