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Want to get faster without having to smash Intervals? DO SKILLS!

Posted on March 16, 2021 at 5:10 PM

Incorporating Skills Practice into your Training Plan


It is hilarious to me that people neglect skills practice on the bike when it can truly make or break your race. I think the main problem is athletes don’t know how to approach it (and also don’t want to) and/or their coaches don’t know how to implement skills into a training plan.


I was already planning on this topic for the blog and trend for this weeks social media here at TST before the recent triathlon in Florida. The race being Challenge Miami. Fortunately, the race and content produced immediately following will help drive home the importance of practicing bike skills and honing your technical ability. If you’re a fan of the sport and follow along with the triathlon “influencers” like Eric Lagerstrom + Paula Findlay, Lionel Sanders and a host of others you’ll notice a common theme among ALL of them with their post-race thoughts and the importance of having the confidence and ability to ride the bike course well, and the impact it had/has on race performance.


For most of us in the States we have not had the opportunity to ride outdoors much (#winter) and we especially haven’t had the opportunity to ride in groups of really any size for the most part (Fortunately that looks to be changing for the better). With races now popping up on the calendar, how can athletes expect to go racing and perform to their potential when they don’t have the confidence/ability to ride their bike to their full potential?


Confidence and competence on the bike comes with practice. An athlete will gladly perform intervals of any duration at a set intensity knowing that the repetition and consistency will pay dividends when they go to perform that power in a race specific scenario. So why don’t athletes approach skills in the same way? Repetition of skills starting with basics and building to applicable uses for race type scenarios!


Who needs to practice bike skills? Every person riding a bike, whether you’re a beginner triathlete to a professional MTB racer, everyone can benefit from practicing bike skills.


When should you put skills in your training plan? It depends on the time of year and what you’re racing. A lot of folks, as mentioned above, can’t really practice skills during the winter because they are mainly stuck on the trainer (There are ways around this). As far as skills implementation during the week once the weather permits, you can begin by having 1 or 2 specific skills days a week at any point in the year. The skills day will simply take the place of a recovery ride. Along with these 1-2 specific skills days, if you desire more you can focus on one task/skill for 5-10 min at the end of every ride if you want. As said above, repetition/consistency of practice is key!


Why practice skills? Simple…

Confidence on the bike= Better performance on the bike

Where should I practice bike skills?

Beginning on soft surface (Grass preferably) where consequences are minimal if you happen to fall over. All skills should follow a progression (similar to normal training) that eventually build to real race application. If you’re racing on the road, eventually progressing to skills specific to your discipline on the road. If you’re racing MTB, eventually taking your skills progression to the dirt.


What should a skills session look like? There are so many ways to approach this, as I mentioned above, anyone and everyone should be practicing skills, and many athletes already do on a regular basis.


However, a skills session for an elite BMX racer or XC MTB racer will look completely different than a skills session for a beginner triathlete. Start where you are and progress with skills that are applicable to give you more confidence in your discipline.


Here is an example of a skill that a lot of my athletes will be familiar with. I use this for anyone riding/racing on the road.


The LEAN: 5min of leaning the bike but maintaining a straight line....basically get your weight as far over the right side of the bike (crouching down helps) and lean your bike to the left, but roll in a straight line... then vice versa.


Move around on the bike and experiment with how far you can lean your bike to one side while maintaining a straight line. Be mindful of where you are on the bike and begin the play around.


I’ll let you guess what this drill can progress into and where it is applicable as you progress through!


There will be two separate FREE plans coming out this coming weekend, one for triathletes building to their first race and looking to gain a bit of extra confidence and speed going in, and one for cyclist with the same premise.


These FREE PLANS will have full skills sessions outlines in them! Want to get faster without having to smash Intervals? DO SKILLS!


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