Checking in to your rides.
I'm not sure how many people take the time to really "check in" to a ride or if they really use the time to improve their abilities or fitness. Checking into a ride simply means that you aren’t riding aimlessly, even though on some days that is all you mentally want to do, and I’m not saying to ditch fun rides.
Checking into a ride is another way of setting a goal and even more importantly establishing a mindset for your ride. My job as a coach and trainer is to give people direction and focus and to have them carry that into their rides and workouts. It is that focus that sets a person up for improvement and change.
Every person can easily be checking into a ride and I'm going to tell you how. Let me first say that it’s up to you to put as little or as much effort into this as you want. However, just like everything in life the more effort and time you put in the more you will accomplish. This also doesn’t mean that you have to abandon your friends or group rides to get better, but some days will definitely serve you best to ride alone with a focus on you.
If we’re going to "check in" to a ride we need to start by figuring out a goal. The job of the goal is to keep our mind on track during the ride. When I set a goal I base it on a few things.
First off will I be riding alone or in a group
Will I be working on fitness, skills, or recovery
How much time do I have
Riding alone or in a group will have both their advantages and disadvantages so it's up to you to determine which will help you the most. If you goal is to get in a really good workout you may be able to do that solo, or be pushed harder by a group. Likewise if your goal is to ride for coffee and chill but others are out to do sprints or hill repeats you are headed in two very different directions.
The same goes for when you want to focus on skill work. You may want to session log overs, or rock gardens and the group you're in is looking to keep a steady pace.
Sometimes making others aware of your goal you can get them to tag along, or share in on what you're working towards.
Everyone wants to grow and improve as a rider, so it only makes sense to get the most out of each ride. The basic idea when you're checking in to a ride is that you stay focused on the goal at hand and you just don't ride aimlessly. You also want to be taking mental notes of what seems to be going right and wrong. You will not have a great ride every time so don’t beat yourself up out there. Goal setting and focusing on the ride may also take your mind off of daily events that are troubling you. Just remember that you're riding simply to get better, not to be perfect.