When is it good to step away from the stats?
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So many of us get bogged down in the stats of cycling, and it’s hard to switch off from them sometimes. With so many percentages of this and threshold that it can become a numbers game rather than a passion for getting out there and riding your bike.
Riding to the numbers does have its place in cycling and will always be a part of it, but when does riding to the numbers become more of a hindrance or even damaging to your cycling? Does chasing that KOM or maintaining an average speed just become counterproductive? The psychology of cycling is often overlooked despite it being just as important as your physical fitness! In most cases when you are struggling on the bike your mind or “head” will give in way before your legs or heart would do.
I have experienced this personally. Having regularly completed over 100-150 miles a week in week out, my cycling took a sudden drop due to ill health and lack of motivation. Soon I began training again but was getting so bogged down with numbers and stats that very quickly it became a mental battle to even get the bike out of the shed, and when I did it was more of a chore than an enjoyable experience. Sitting for hours on end studying my stats on Garmin Connect and Strava became an obsession, looking for where I was going wrong, why were the legs and lungs not performing as they once had? Why could I not seem to get my fitness levels back to their former levels? Pushing my body like crazy was just not working! Till one day I found myself thinking that I was spending more time on the bike looking at the screen of my Garmin than I was just enjoying being out on the bike – and the penny dropped!
For a few rides, I decided to leave the Garmin at home, all be it I still took my GPS watch with me so that I could see if not having my stats in real time in front of me having made a difference. Within a few commutes and solo rides here and there I soon found my mojo and training had recommenced. Now the only difference here was that my Garmin was not on its mount, I was still recording my rides and still looking at the stats when I got home, but I was not looking at them during the ride, I was not looking at my average speed when heading into the climb, or monitoring my cadence during an accent etc. Now this is not an anti Strava or Garmin post far from it, I am the biggest cycling data geek I know when it comes to using these for the benefit of my beloved sport, but I am slowly learning that they have their place and from time to time they need to be left out of sight.
Proof for me was after a week of using my GPS watch over my Garmin mounted on the bars, was a ride with a group of friends where in the preceding months I had been well at the back if not a few miles tailing behind, struggling to maintain a steady speed, all the time the Garmin there telling me its only getting worse, HR climbing at the same time as speed dropping, to attacking the group, maintaining form based on how I was feeling at the time, even attacking a climb which anyone that knows me knows never happens! When I got home and uploaded the ride no less than 25 PRs, on a route I had done many times!
In conclusion – when is it good to step away from the stats? Well, my advice would be as many times as you feel you need to! If you like me felt yourself getting bogged down in the numbers, and struggling with your mojo, leave the bike computer off the bike at home or in a rear pocket, ride to how your body feels for a few rides and reacquaint yourself with why you took up cycling. You never know it might just land you a bag load of PRs too!
Chris Evans – Cycling Guru for The Velo Coach Writing for VeloSocial.