There is an old expression: "Confidence lost, everything lost."
As athletes, we put ourselves out there in a black and white situation where we are judged based on goals we've set and seeing if we can meet our goals by stepping on the start line. It takes a lot of guts to do that. Setting a goal and seeing it through can be a lesson in self growth far beyond what we imagined.
Race season has started. As you head into your race it's key to have a clear view of your plan. Things can happen on race day out of your control and you just have to roll with that, adjust and adapt. For the things you can influence, it's important to take control and set yourself up for the best day possible.
The gym can be icing on the cake or it can be a critical part of your program. Either way, gym conditioning has a positive impact on endurance sports performance, especially in triathlon where strength endurance is such a huge factor for the event.
Some people have concerns such as time limitations or building too much mass. That's why it's important that you choose a strength program that fits you. Even two sessions per week throughout the year right up to the last 12 weeks of your A race can have a material benefit.
Through this period of the winter we usually see two things: people either being overzealous with their training and not understanding pacing the season, or completely unfocused because they are in the thick of winter and they feel like it will be forever before they get to race.
I've found that a few things work to keep you on track for your season goals.
When you identify yourself as a triathlete you are often asked, "What is your strength? What background did you come from?"
For some it's obvious -- swim, bike or run. For others it's less obvious -- strong stomach, ability to endure tough conditions, mental capacity, durability or ability to absorb high training/racing load without injury or illness. And then there are those who are well-rounded as triathletes with no particular discipline as a specific strength, but the strength itself is that all three events are strong and balanced.
There are many different ways athletes approach their overall annual plans, but most have similarities they follow when thinking of their upcoming year. Terms like "prioritization" and "repeatable week" are all commonly used in endurance sport. Most know there needs to be an element of pacing the year and ramping up to specific work as the main event approaches.
With 2013 training kicking off for everyone, it's time to consider how you approach the winter.
I have the pleasure of asking several athletes in different points in their development across a number of sports a lot of questions. A few things are consistent in the ones who continue to improve and do well.
The first step to overcoming any weakness is having the ability to recognize it. Most of us are pretty tough on ourselves so we can create a huge list of things we want to improve. An actual weakness is slightly different, and it's sometimes hard to identify exactly what it is.
Fall and winter are the time of year to really start to focus in the gym. Building strength, power and new dynamic movement can really improve you for the next year's season. This is especially important for older athletes, injury prone athletes, lighter framed athletes and almost all female athletes.
Most everyone in the Northern Hemisphere is closing out their race seasons (or already has). Now is the time to consider an off season. The definition of "off season" may vary from athlete to athlete, but the basic gist for almost everyone is that the next "season" is many months away and your current motivation is changing.
We bring sport into our lives and it has an impact on everything we are. The entire package: asking our work, our families and our friends to be a part of our new found love. It effects our outlook, our decision making and our way of life.
I think it's important to first acknowledge that this lifestyle most likely isn't going to "go away." It is likely not a "phase" you are going through. It is a lifestyle of habits, choices, friends and how you as a person have chosen to live your life. It impacts everything.
There are a lot of different ways to approach your A race taper. But whichever way you choose to lead in to the race, your number one goal in the final week should be to feel rested, focused, excited to race and organized.
I'm going to lay out two different example of taper weeks going into a race that you might consider applying to your own approach.
While many people who read this site have some background in triathlon already, we're always getting visitors who are just starting out -- either as new entrants to iron-distance racing or those who are completely new to triathlon. I want to share some tips as a sort of primer for the inexperienced and as a reminder for experienced triathlete. Even if you've been at this a while, you might have drifted away from a basic principle.
This workout of the month is a little different. If you are an athlete with a permanent injury that hinders your ability to run but you still have the love and desire to do triathlon, then this is your month!
Most will tell you that your time is up and you should quit. I don't believe in that! I think it's the easiest and weakest way out for the person telling you to call it quits. The fact is, they just don't know what to do.
We train to race. This is the reason we do set after set, day in and day out. The race is the big day, the test, the party. It's where we get to head out and truly see where we are.
A lot of factors come into putting a race together: physical, mental, experience, equipment, conditions, courses, goals. You need to consider all of those factors when planning your race.
Pretty much everybody who decides they want to do an ironman knows there are going to be some long rides. It usually varies on how many or how often for different people and different programs. Each athlete's ability and experience level also dictates the length of the long ride.
I am a cyclist at heart. I love riding my bike. The beauty about cycling is generally the more you can ride, the better you get. There does come a point where the work rate itself within the total hours of riding becomes key, but nobody can argue the importance of the big epic ride within the ironman build. It gives you the chance to practice pacing and nutrition, builds durability and endurance, and helps you embrace the mental challenges of being out there a long time.
You know those sessions that cause you to just cringe in fear if anyone even mentions them? We all have them. The coach says, "Okay, today we are going to do a solo bike TT for one hour, best possible pace," or "1500m TT in the pool," and you get that shudder.
This month's workout is a session geared towards those short course speedsters, people who struggle with that first 30 minutes from swim to ride or races that require you to hop right onto your bike and be geared to race it from the start.
If you are already doing everything you can on the physical side to prepare for racing and are looking for the next step to reach your goals, consider looking at your mental game plan. Here is a simple step by step strategy to improving your mental skills that you can practice in training and put in place come race day.
We just had the pleasure of hosting another great EC training camp with another amazing group of athletes.
One thing I can recall saying more than once throughout the training camp to people is, "You will survive."
With a lot of early season half ironmans are already starting to pop up, it won't be long until many of us are going to start to be back at a start line.
If you are starting to think about racing this spring, adding good quality work to your long rides is key.
A common mistake athletes make is not having enough difference between their fast efforts and their easy efforts. Make your quality work fast and your easy very easy. You want to see a big difference between the two in speed and power.
A big part of the success of your race comes from planning and preparation. For months you look after training, life details, nutrition and recovery. After managing all that, a piece of the success puzzle that is often overlooked is your plan for travel to your race.
It's key to map out your plan with your travel and logistics to have things run smooth leading up to race day. Being prepared with this will allow you the time to really recoup and be ready for your event.
You've made it through the holidays and into the new year. You're fired up looking at the 2012 races; scheduling, planning and getting into your training plan for 2012 summer events.
Triathlon is an endurance event, no matter what distance you choose. From a one-hour to 17-hour race, you are asking yourself to race for a long time. This kind of racing take strength, it takes endurance, and most of all it takes a lot of conditioning. If you've frequently raced long and for a number of years it's easy to get sidelined into only going slow, long, easy.
If you find yourself getting "slow," remember there needs to be a certain amount of speed and power in your plan all year.
I have been thinking a lot as I chat with friends and athletes about new year goal setting. There needs to be a direct responsibility for your results. Reaching goals doesn't come by accident. It comes from clear planning and a real connection with what it takes to achieve those goals.
As you face the winter you might be starting to look at areas you can work on that you aren't able to target during your race season.
Through my 20s I spent many hours in the gym learning all kinds of dynamic strength programs for different sports. Most of them were explosive sports, but as I ventured into the endurance world I took the time to learn the value of gym strength in training for the long stuff.
Many of us are starting to look at the race calendar for next season. With are so many great choices available year round -- especially if you are willing to travel -- there are a number of ways to approach your season and no way is right or wrong. You just need to know what works for you.
A lot of us are starting to see the weather change and are starting to think about climbing back on the trainer for the winter months. A combination of good trainer sessions to keep you motivated while stuck inside is key.
I've never been a believer in just sitting on an indoor trainer and riding easy for three to five hours. I think an athlete would be much better off heading out for a snow shoe, skate ski or hike. I believe every time you get on the trainer in the winter months you should have a purpose -- a session written out with some focus in it.
One of the most common questions I get asked is about nutrition: "How do I get as lean as I possibly can, live in my hectic life and have the energy I need to train and recover?"
The answer is slightly different for each athlete, but the key points stand true for nearly everyone.
It's all about finding out how you are not being true to yourself.
Do you remember being a little kid and sitting glued to the TV or magazines and thinking, “I wanna be just like them when I grow up?”
We all have heroes -- we have people and icons throughout our life that we admire and aspire or dream we could be like. As we grow older these heroes change and help mold who we are. We use those images in our heads to help guide us and motivate us.
If you are still racing and heading to some of the fall half IMs and IMs you still have some work to do. You've likely been racing for a number of months now and dragging out more long miles may only leave you flat. The months of racing, tapering and long sessions can see you losing some strength by this point in the year.
I recommend focusing your energy on quality for your event and keeping strength and power up. You want to prevent the feeling of "getting slow" from the year worth of long training and hard racing.