Why January is Key to Success in June:
Let’s Convert Your New Year’s Resolutions into Reality
Richard Fries is the Director of Cycling Experience for the Best Buddies Challenges. With more than 40 years experience, he has been a racer, commuter, tourist, promoter, advocate, journalist and commentator on the sport and lifestyle of cycling. Having raced at the professional level both in America and Europe, Fries is well known as a race announcer having called countless USA Cycling National Championships, World Cups, and UCI World Championships. But he is also a tireless advocate having recently served as the executive director of MassBike. You can follow him on Strava to learn more.
The late Jimmy Valvano, who coached North Carolina State to a national men’s basketball championship, famously started his first practice with that team without any balls. He made the entire team practice cutting down the net from the hoop, a ritual celebration typically reserved for after a major victory. Valvano did it before the season started.
It worked. He set the expectation.
As I type this I’m looking at bones from fried chicken, an empty beer bottle and some amazingly aromatic soft cheese from some cave in France. Those were my rewards for a successful cycling season in 2018. I lost a lot of weight, cut way down on alcohol consumption, cleaned up my diet, and got fit enough to hold my own in some regional masters races.
That success started last January. There were highs; there were lows. There were breakthroughs; there were setbacks. I muddled through frustrating plateaus; I danced through long rides. I learned how to race, not just “ride”, cyclo-cross. I had countless transcendent days on the bike, enjoyed 10-hour perambulations with friends, and one nearly perfect century in August. And, I kept rolling right up until I ordered that fried chicken.
Everything starts during the short days and dark nights of January, especially if you are looking to flow right through the 100-mile Best Buddies Challenge: Hyannis Port on June 1 or along the Pacific Coast Highway on our September 7 Best Buddies Challenge: Hearst Castle.
Far too many riders of the Best Buddies Challenge focus on finishing the ride. That’s it. This denies a person all the transformational byproduct benefits that such an accomplishment presents. They limp through the preparation, show up ill-prepared, muscle through, and then hang it up for the year.
Use the holidays to set your goals. In short, practice cutting down your nets. Your baseline is what you have on January 2nd- whatever that may be in terms of your body, state of mind, spiritual energy, etc. – and set expectations for yourself. Then, get out the calendar and plan how to get there.
Seems easy, eh? It’s not.
Make 2019 Extraordinary
First we need to factor in your personal, social and professional commitments. We need to build a program around weddings, conferences, graduations, deadlines, etc. Then, we need to publicly state what you want to achieve and balance that against the expectations of your family and co-workers. This part is really important. Make it known. Declare your goal.
Each phase of your 2019 journey will require a six-week commitment. If you look at Jeremiah Angel’s Blog on getting ready for the Best Buddies Challenge in just 12 weeks he is pretty spot on. To simply finish the ride one can start as late as mid-April.
Far too many ordinary middle-age people operate with a mundane goal of maintaining some health metrics. They end up with a pick-things-up-put-them-down mentality around health and fitness. They go to gyms. They wear headphones. They trot on treadmills.
But this is for the ordinary. And 2019 is to be extraordinary. So let’s start earlier than April. Let’s start now.
Let’s look at this like an airplane.
January is when you taxi out to the runway. You need to move out slowly towards the runway. I am a big fan of low-impact, moderate intensity stuff. I’m a believer in yoga, notably Yin Yoga. I plan to do some gym work and we’ll be leading indoor training sessions at Belmont Wheelworks. There will be a bit of skiing and yes, I’ll still ride outside on the good days. I also believe we need not wear spandex to “workout.” Long days in museums, art galleries and shops count too.
February and March is the runway. Shortly after the Super Bowl is when I plan my start. This will be six weeks of long-slow rides (three-hours or more) to condition my butt, my back, my body and my soul for the miles ahead. Experienced riders call this base miles. And this will be done in concert with the indoor stuff we started in January. We’re getting the body going, and using cold weather to raise the metabolism. (The very latest research on “non-shivering thermogenesis” is fascinating. Metabolism in colder weather is upwards of six-times that of warm weather.)
April and May is when we climb. After six weeks of base miles we will plan to increase the intensity. While my mantra of “ride more; train less” holds, this is when we integrate two or three days a week of “training” with hills or riding harder. We plan to push the thresholds. We want to focus on intensity but also rest. My suggestion is to find group rides, preferably ones that will push you to the next level of skill and fitness. This is also when I sign up for some rides that will challenge me and give me a benchmark. (Oh yeah, they’re also a blast!) For you tech types, this phase of your development is when raise your FTP (functional threshold power) and your lactate threshold. This is the barrier you can break through. Our body is also producing a lot more mitochondria, learning internally how to burn fat instead of sugar, and becoming much more efficient.
May and June is cruising altitude. Like an airplane, you will now be able to flow with this platform of fitness rising up or down as desired. You will run efficiently. You will be in the moment. This is transcendent cycling. The vast majority of the readers will not understand these words. But experience this once, and you’ll understand why Hungarian super psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes “flow” as the secret to happiness. And from that state you’ll do things that are extraordinary.
But it all starts in January with you – like Jimmy Valvano – cutting down that net. Be extraordinary.