Don't Forget the Time Out
by Russ Cox
I want to race faster.
I think for the majority of us that neatly summarizes our major goals for the next season. From back to front of pack athletes, we want to improve; to race better than we have done before. That usually means faster. This simple idea grows into a plan encompassing months of our lives and committing ourselves to hours of training. The danger when chasing bigger goals is we simply try to do bigger training without consideration for timing or our own capacity to handle more. I will confess, I've done it, and -- okay -- sometimes I've got away with it in the short term, but when we're looking at an entire season there needs to be greater management of training load.
It is incredibly simple to overlook the need to take time out. Another confession: I've done this too -- what’s worse, it wasn’t just in my own planning, but in planning for another athlete. His progress was good over winter, there were strong developments and the groundwork seemed set for a fantastic season. Buoyed on this success we pressed on, pushing him further and initially the response was good. The his motivation went. Physically all was well, the plan had balanced recovery in each week, but mentally he lacked drive. At a stage of his build when we wanted focus, he struggled to maintain the consistency and work ethic that got him to that point. We pulled it around as best we could, but the season didn't quite deliver on expectations.
Eight months -- the time from now until a summer ironman -- is a long time to maintain a single-minded focus on progression. My error, one I mentioned above, was to forget that there is more to balancing a training plan than simply the physical load. Some may be able to cope with long periods focused on a single objective, but I know from my own experience and now from my athlete's that others cannot. And the result, regardless of physical condition, is a period of distraction and inconsistency, where motivational lows at their most extreme lead to underperformance in key workouts.
Yet it can be easily dealt with when we sit down in winter and plan our pathway to that faster ironman. Rather than drawing a straight line from the fitness we have now to the fitness we'll need for that new PR, we make steps. Recognize that after many weeks of good quality training, even if our bodies don't need a break, our minds might. Let go of the idea that you have to push from now until that race day eight months down the line and allow for some time out. Mid season, a week -- maybe two -- of chilled out training, keeping active. It’s important not to come to a complete stop, but without the pressure of your usual routine. Do other sports, take extra days off, reinvigorate. You'll come back to your training routine mentally and physically refreshed.
That's my reminder for those about to embark on bold 2013 plans. Don't view a well timed break as a delay or hindrance to your plans. Think big and push yourself, but remember that either body or mind could give if you don't allow yourself a time out.
Russ is a full-time triathlete and endurance coach who has raced and trained around the world. His Trains, Travels blog focuses on endurance triathlon training from an athlete's perspective, covering topics such as nutrition, training, psychological preparation and what to do during taper and recovery. In his Endurance Corner column, Russ shares some of the insights he's learned along the way.