It started off innocently enough. I had done my homework so I knew what kind of group I was meeting. In this case, it was for a bike ride, but this kind of thing I’m going to tell you about happens all the time with swimming and running groups as well.
I had learned it was a moderate level ride, not beginners where I knew there would be questionable bike skills and knowledge, and a pace that would be slower than I knew would be comfortable, or elite riders where the entire ride would be a “hammerfest,” and I would be dropped out on some lost Texas road not knowing how to get back. I was just starting my bike fitness again after many months of being out. The moderate distance and pace group would fit my needs. I knew I wasn’t in over my head.
But about 10 miles into the ride with everything going well so far, word had filtered back that some of the leaders were considering breaking off at a point I wasn’t familiar with, and adding at least a half hour to the ride.
This is what happens at every unorganized bike ride, run, or swim. It starts out that it’s just a bunch of friends getting together to work out and, “Hey, why don’t you join us. We’re going easy.” Next thing you know, the workout you signed on for has changed. You didn’t know anything about the change. It was unknown and unplanned, and can leave you in over your head or even injured. It was…unscripted.
Doing a simple loop of the lake with like minded friends, when the guy next to you asks, “Hey, I’m hitting the hills. Wanna go with me? We’ll go easy.” Ahh, so tempting to go. Do you or don’t you? (Some they do, and some they don’t. And some you just can’t tell. Some they will, and some they won’t. And some it’s just as well.” – S.Tramp)
You’re at the pool for an extra workout that’s supposed to be fun and easy. Next thing you know, you’re racing your friend in the next lane. “No! Say it ain’t so!” At best, you’re rolling the dice on your fitness plan, and at worst getting ready to be injured.
So, what are you going to do?
Don’t do anything. Don’t do the additional speed/hill/tempo extra miles, or strokes/distance/speed if you’re in the water. Do only what you intended to do. Stick to your plan. You came out to ride 30 miles with this new group; ride only 30 miles with the group. You made your intentions clear from the beginning, so you’re not disappointing anyone. If they had a hidden agenda, then they were already intending on doing this before you signed on. Let them go and meet them at the end. You can meet up with those guys next time when you’re more prepared and have made allowances in your training week to accommodate the extra pounding that is going to happen.
Secondly, how can you prepare for this the next time you meet up with a group knowing there will be a hidden agenda, or an unscripted workout? Decide before you start the workout exactly what you’re going to do and stick to it. Commit before the swim, bike, or run workout. If you’re following a schedule, then follow the schedule. While no single workout should make or break your overall schedule, one missing brick from the wall of fitness you’re building should affect your overall strength or endurance.
During my bike ride, when I heard about the possible change, I began asking around me who was going to tack on the additional miles and hills. All those around me said they were not. I worked my way up to the front and asked the two hammerheads leading the ride. When they looked at each other, I realized I had called their bluff. “Ah, we’re going straight today. Probably won’t add on.” Good. Good for me, and the rest of the pack, too. We would all survive today, and make it back without the SAG Wagon having to go and look for some dehydrated and hungry, forlorn cyclist. It was deep blue sky with only a slight northern breeze to cool us. It was a beautiful day.