Achieving the next level is a cliché term, for sure. And it means something different to each and every one of us. However, the process of reaching the next level is pretty cut-and-dry: You have to fully commit yourself to the process. It’s really this simple. Too many athletes talk a mean game but, when push comes to shove, they balk. It turns out that reaching the next level isn’t as important as they like to think it is.
It’s really easy to set aggressive goals in the Fall when the body’s fresh, the mind gets excited about looking ahead to the next season and our emotions get the best of us. It’s entirely another thing when we start to execute our plans and a few weeks or a couple of months into it, we realize that we’re either in over our heads or we just are not willing to do as much as we had planned to achieve our goals. When I say full commitment, I do not mean sacrifice everything to become a better/faster/stronger athlete. What I mean is, you find a way.
Getting better at an endurance sport is, for better or worse, about putting more time in. Sometimes this means putting in a second – or third – workout in a day. Sometimes this means getting up earlier to put in more time before the family wakes up and you need to get ready for work. You need to boost your cumulative volume by a good 20-30% in order to create a measurable impact on your training. You accomplish this by extending some workouts – some workouts need to be 2+ hours in duration during the weekdays. You accomplish this by putting in longer workouts on the weekends.
For cycling, as just one example, 3-4-hour rides are fine. But 1-2 times a month, those rides need to be 5-6 hours. The stressors the extra couple hours puts on the body simply cannot be recreated by intensifying shorter rides. And it is this extra forced adaptation that pushes the body up to the next level.
Getting to the next level does not equate to doing unnatural things or taking the enjoyment out of the process. However, it does require extra commitment to the process. So, as you continue to create your training plan for the upcoming season or your upcoming key races within the season, first give yourself a quick gut check and make sure you’re ready to commit to what it will take to get you there. If you’re willing to commit, then you stand a great chance to achieve “the next level”, however you define it.