Aboout.com: Why is it important to discover your weaknesses and strengthen them, instead of avoiding certain exercises?
Gould: It's important to work on your weaknesses because those areas are usually the ones that you can make the most progress. There is usually less room-for-improvement in the areas where you are strongest. That being said, training should be a balance of working on your weaknesses and developing your strengths. When you do workouts that you are good at and that you enjoy, you gain confidence, and confidence is important!
Aboout.com: What are the appropriate steps to take after receiving an injury?
Gould: The number one priority should be a complete recovery. Airing on the side of more rest is always better because you don't want to re-injure yourself.
Aboout.com: When should riders return to the bike after an injury?
Gould: It really depends on the person and the injury, but this is best discussed with your doctor and/or physical therapist.
Aboout.com: What signs point in the direction of taking some down time to recharge?
Gould: This is a tough one. There are 2 types of burn-out and they both influence each other.
1. Physical Burnout. Your body will tell you when you are doing too much. Some signs of physical burn-out include: difficulty recovering from hard workouts (even after multiple days of rest), low energy, constant illness, trouble sleeping. Depending on the individual case, this can be solved by taking a few more recovery days, or even a few weeks of low volume, low intensity exercise. Listen to your body.
2. Mental Burnout. This is very individual and can happen for lots of different reasons including: doing the same workout too often, doing too much high-intensity work, too many races, too much stress or any number of other reasons. Often mental burnout can be solved by doing a different type of workout (mountain bike ride instead of road ride or a long steady ride instead of high intensity intervals) or even a different sport (I usually do more running in the fall and winter because after a long spring/summer on the bike, I am usually ready to mix it up in the fall. Sometimes, just some good old time off is the only thing needed.
A good coach (and good communication with your coach) can help you avoid physical and mental burnout.
Aboout.com: How can riders keep training fresh (goals, variety, indoor/outdoor, etc.)?
Gould: 1. Have easy days and hard days. It's fun to go hard, but if you go as hard as you can during every workout, working out isn't that much fun. Give your body a chance to recover, rebuild and get stronger by incorporating easy days (a super easy 45 minute spin on your bike, a mellow 20min jog or even a 20-30min walk) into your training schedule. It's a lot easier to go hard when you are rested, and pushing yourself can be easier if you know you have an easy day the next day.
2. Mix it up. Keep training interesting by doing different kinds of workouts. Vary the time, intensity and route so you don't get bored. There are lots of ways to skin a cat, so don't feel like there is one kind of workout you HAVE to do. Listen to your body.
3. Try something new. A different sport or activity can help to freshen up your routine. If you are a cyclist, running, skiing, swimming or hiking can be a welcome change. Other sports also help to address weaknesses and muscle imbalances that can develop when you only do one sport.
4. Go with a buddy. I train a lot by myself, but I find that training with a friend can be a nice change. A training partner can motivate you to get out the door, make the time pass a little faster and push you to go harder (especially if you have similar fitness levels).
Aboout.com: How important is a healthy diet?
Gould: A healthy diet is important for many reasons. First, when you are eating healthy you FEEL better. Also, proper fueling will make a difference in the quality of your workouts. A healthy diet doesn't mean all you can eat is salad, or that food can't be flavorful and delicious. I think balance is the most important thing when choosing a diet plan that you are going to stick with. I try to focus on big things like "more fruits and veggies" "staying hydrated" and "less junk food" rather than getting too specific. When eating healthy becomes a chore (counting calories, avoiding food groups, being extremely strict) then you are more likely to bail on the whole thing.
Aboout.com: What are some ways riders get mentally prepared for a race?
Gould: I think lots of riders have a pre-race routine that they stick to. This helps you to stay organized, focused and relaxed before a race. It doesn't have to be super strict, but having a system that works helps you avoid running around like a chicken with your head cut off in the hours leading up to the race.
Aboout.com: How can one learn/move on from disappointment?
Gould: Well, hopefully the longer you race, the better you get at this!
Disappointment is not a great feeling, and most of us want to avoid it as much as possible, but I try to use disappointment as a tool to motivate myself. I try to learn something from every race I do, no matter where I placed in the race. Finding something positive about each race can help you to see each event as a learning opportunity.
I've had races where I didn't finish well, but my bike handling skills were spot-on (positive). Or where I was climbing well (positive) even though I got passed by lots of people on the downhills. So try to be objective and come up with one positive thing- even if the only positive thing is "I finished!"
When you are having a bad race (for whatever reason) try to come up with something else to focus on like "I'm going to try to ride corners more smoothly" or "I'm going to try to keep my eyes up and look farther ahead." That can keep your disappointment from spiraling into defeat.
I have had plenty of disappointing races- really there's no way to avoid them- but I always try to remember that those tough races are the ones that make you really appreciate the good ones!