The Grey: Improving Your Performance (Bikeradar)

By Ben Day

When it comes to performance in endurance sports, contrary to what many people believe, there is no secret formula. Performance can be somewhat of an intangible thing, a combination of science, knowledge, sensations and art. Neither black or white, but, instead, The Grey.

What is definite about performance is that it is a special blend consisting of many elements, unique to everyone’s skills, lives and desires. This holistic balance comes from defining a training process that accounts for personal attributes, utilising science and knowledge, while reflecting on experience, ensuring good rest, good nutrition, a healthy and strong mind, and having a balance of work, family and play that’s appropriate for that person and their goals in sport. 

Ben Day's power meter collection is far from ordinary, yet Day still strongly suggests you remove the blinkers that have many focused on the 'watts'
My power meter collection has expanded over recent years, with more brands on the market than ever before

Successfully training to improve performance is not just looking at power, heart rate, cadence, pace, technique, biomechanics, equipment, mental fortitude, tactics or nutrition – it is all of these and more, and it’s important to never get too caught up in just one thing.

Don’t get hung up on your power output. It is far from the whole story

A great example of this is the advent of power meters in cycling. It is an amazing tool that has revolutionised training giving the ability to define the true physiological output of the athlete. But something we see more and more is a bad relationship with the wattage number that is seen on the screen. Every day, the rider is defining the success of their ride by whether they are setting new personal best power numbers, and they are forgetting the process necessary in attaining peak performance. 

At DaybyDay Coaching we are a firm believer that the fundamental of a successful training process is RPE – Rating of Perceived Exertion. Introduced by Gunnar Borg in 1985, RPE is a scale of how the athlete perceives the intensity of the exercise creating body awareness and taking into account the mind. Check in with the best endurance athletes in the world and they all have amazing body awareness and the ability to ‘feel out’ their efforts – you will find that these athletes have a lot more of a holistic balance than just massive power numbers.

There is an art in achieving peak performance that is all about feeling this correct balance. While there is amazing knowledge behind understanding human physiology there is still a lot that stumps us and it doesn’t explain the anomalies from person to person. Nobody responds the same as the next person, therefore everyone’s training should be different and it is why, ultimately, all performances are different – this makes for exciting racing!  Humans are not robots.

So where do you need to begin to improve your performance? This part you can either do by yourself or enlist the help of a coach.  Do it, feel it, think about it, and note it. Training diaries are a great way to record this process as we do with platforms like TrainingPeaks. Construct a training plan taking into account this feedback and make it specific to your individual needs. Continue the process of reviewing how it felt, what your sensations were and correlate this with each session’s performance data. By acknowledging this and reviewing it, you can then optimise the direction of your training and fine tune it to pursue the perfect holistic balance for you, defining, The Grey.

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