Now that we are well into April and some of the early races have begun, I wanted to share some experiences and approaches for early season racing I have used with success. Most recently I had a large group racing at Oceanside 70.3 and although everyone was 100% motivated and fitness looked good across the group, I always have apprehensions about how “race” fit athletes actually are. Then again, sometimes early season racing opens a window to what needs attention for the remainder of the year.
Quite often I’ll emphasize to athletes about consistency of training and patience for large parts of the year and within a long term planning structure. In the end it is still the backbone of improvement as a triathlete, but every once in a while we need something to try and speed the process up.
As performance minded athletes transition into their winter training, most come back highly motivated to strive towards new goals. At this time of year, our brains and mentality are usually ahead of our bodies in terms of what we can handle. Because of that, it’s crucial we manage our energy early in the year/season so that we can do our best and most difficult training when it matters most with relation to our key race(s).
Quite often as coaches or athletes we search for ways to improve our weaknesses so that we can improve our overall ability as triathletes. One thing we don’t want to see happen through this process is that our strengths fall off so much that they become a liability... dare I say, a weakness. Even though the saying goes, “Train your weaknesses, race your strengths,” you still need make sure you have strengths to fall back on.
Over the past month I’ve spent time planning for athletes’ 2013 seasons, but while looking forward I have had to spend time reflecting back over the past year or two to help in getting the future correct. Simply, I’d like to share some lessons I’ve learned or confirmed with my athletes (or myself) over the past year.
Last month I discussed looking at a relatively long term planning picture at this time of year to give yourself some focus and direction with your training. While many athletes still need to focus on improving those bigger picture items first, there comes a time when smaller ones can make a difference.
Most athletes, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, are winding down their triathlon racing seasons. While many athletes may put their triathlon gear and thoughts away for awhile, the goal driven, performance driven athletes are planning. They are planning the next year or the maybe even the next three years. Although you have some down time from training, do yourself a favor and begin thinking out how you might want to plan next season (more than just the races you sign up for) and potentially the years beyond.
Many of us have busy lives that we choose to make even more complicated by not only adding a sport like triathlon to it, but also wanting to continuously improve and even excel. Over 22 years of coaching -- 15 of those helping triathletes -- I’ve seen my share of unbalance in an athlete’s life but in the majority of cases I have learned and gained so much appreciation for those who do it “right” and not only make themselves happy but make those around them happy as well.
We often train it on a weekly basis, and maybe even multiple times during a week, but do we really get it right in training? If we don’t get it right in training, will it magically happen on race day? I’m talking about transition runs and using key training days to work on the skill of pacing the opening few miles of the run during your race correctly.
I’m not a nutritionist but I have stayed at a number of Holiday Inn Expresses before races. The reality is, a nutrition protocol, and the application of it, can make or break a long distance race and all the training in the world isn’t going to cover a nutritional screw up!
As we start to hit the meat of triathlon season many athletes are fast approaching their key events. In the months and weeks leading into those events we plan to execute training based on expectations of how we would like to race on the “big day.”
When attempting a breakthrough, whether it a race performance, mental barrier or physical barrier, it’s often best not to put an exact time limit on it. The reality is we need to set up our training and our programs so that we are doing things to improve on a daily basis. If we do that, and assuming the plan is guiding us in the proper direction, breakthroughs will happen. Quite often you’ll feel the change and sense something is coming and other times it may surprise the heck out of you. What follows are few ways and items to consider on your path to breakthrough training and performances.
When trying to become a successful athlete it’s not hard to drive yourself into submission thinking you need to be physically tough every minute of every day. The reality is we need to learn when to be physically tough, when to be mentally tough, and at times, when to be neither. Then again, being neither often takes a bit of mental fortitude. As a result, not being tough can be the toughest thing for a lot of us. The key to athletic success is not only deciding how to be tough, but what tough really is and in what scenario. There are a variety of ways to make yourself strong, durable, and in the process a better athlete
For the most part, people are inherently social. Because of that, it's not uncommon for many triathletes to stay in “social mode” and gravitate toward group training. I often have to say to my athletes, “When it comes to group training, you are going to have to compromise.”
This isn't always a bad thing, it's just a fact, and it can be a good thing if you "use" the group correctly. When I say compromise, it's a reference to possibly not doing the exact training you need to optimize performance. So what do most people compromise?