Having a Routine

The following is an article I wrote for The Racing Post and in the March 2016 issue.

The group was stepping in to their pedals to take off.   The ride was leaving its customary eight minutes late.  He’s coming in hot, and pulls into the nearest parking space to the group, which was somewhat disconcerting, since they were looking down at pedals and computers to start their ride.   He throws open the hatch and pulls his bike out.  He puts the front wheel on the bike and leans it against the car.  Moving quickly, he searches through his bag for his right cycling shoe. The left one was on the floor board.   “Crap.”  He forgot his helmet.   “Someone is going to give me grief, but I don’t have time to go back home and get it.”  He shouts out to a nearby teammate, “Hold up!  I’m coming!”  There’s the right shoe.  He gets on his bike and realizes he left his computer on his spin bike back at home.   He sees that he forgot to shut the hatch to the car, and then sees his helmet under his cycling clothes from yesterday.   He sets his bike against the car, crawls in the back to grab the helmet, and the movement of the car causes his bike to fall over on the derailleur side…

She sets her bike just outside the door and pumps up the tires with her second favorite pump that she leaves there.   She goes back to grab her already filled bottles from the counter that were next to her charging computer.  She unplugs the computer, and puts her ride food that she made the day before into her pockets.   She puts her house key in the hiding spot, turns on her cycling computer, spins her cranks backwards, and hits “calibrate” on the computer.

She does it this same way every day.   The steps were thought out to make sure nothing was forgotten, and the sequence had a purpose.  For example, the ride food was made the day before, so she wouldn’t grab lesser foods due to being in a hurry before the ride.   The computer was put on a charger after the previous day’s ride to make sure it had a full battery for the next ride, and her bottles are next to that.  If she forgets her computer, she’ll remember it when she grabs her bottles.  If she forgets her bottles, she’ll remember when she grabs her computer.  But she won’t forget either, because she has the same routine for every ride.   She even leaves a pump outside by the door, so she won’t have to remember if it was in the car or the garage.

Whether an athlete is working a regular nine to five job or training full time, having a routine not only saves time, it is peace of mind, because it should make the process of getting ready for a ride, doing the workout, and finishing up predictable and efficient.   There are plenty of people who are habitually five minutes late, or forget their repair kit, or need to borrow a pump once they meet up with a group.   While that is certainly a routine of sorts, it is unnecessarily stressful.   In the grand scheme, it takes the same amount of time to fill up bottles, pump the tires, calibrate the powermeter, and fill the pockets with food.  Having a regular procedure so that it is done without a rush means that things are less likely to go wrong.   With things less likely to go wrong, there’s more opportunity for successful rides or workouts.

If you know you will be on the trainer the next day, go ahead and put your bike on there the night before.  Have your bottles ready to go, so all you have to do is get on and ride.   Especially when a workout happens after work or school, doing things to make sure you have the most time available for riding, instead of using some of that time to get ready, will give you more opportunity to improve.

Check your tires after a ride for cuts or debris embedded, so you aren’t met with a surprise right before or early in the next ride.   It is much better to make a repair or change out a tire after a ride than to have to remember to do it before the next one.   The same can be done with a quick inspection of the frame as you quickly wipe it down.   You have the opportunity to catch a problem before it becomes more serious, and wiping the bike down from each ride minimizes the major cleaning needed from letting it go long periods of time.

We can argue the merit of keeping the bike looking “pro” by not having a saddle bag, but having a saddle bag on there means you’ll already have your flat kit and tools with you.  If you prefer to carry those bits, keep it in your shoe until the next ride, because you know you’ll remember your shoes.

Anything you do at the conclusion of one ride that will ready you for the next ride is saving you time and stress.  Routines, whether it is getting ready for a ride, or having “Monday in the gym,” or “Date night and Game of Thrones on Thursday,” makes the habit of training and preparing for racing go smoother.  It will also help you maximize your time.   You may find you have more time to ride with a productive routine, or you may find that you don’t need as much time as you’ve been taking, because your routine is efficient.

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