Planning your season is the first step to success. The tried and true method of setting A, B, and C priority races is still the best way to set out your season. But while you set out your general training for the next six to eight months or more, it is important to consider the mental component as well. When it comes to planning your season, honestly evaluating your ability to stay motivated and dealing with natural dips in motivation is as critical as the training.
Nearly every athlete overestimates their ability to stay motivated for long periods of time. As triathletes, it is built into us to push our limits and not slack off. This is something that is both a great asset and potential disaster. It is natural at this time of year to feel super motivated and ready for anything. However, the reality is that motivation comes and goes. The discipline it takes to train, recover, diet, etc. takes its toll on everyone, no matter how motivated you are in January. If you try to overcome this natural dip and keep pushing through, this eventually leads to the point of a complete breakdown.
There are three ways I work with athletes to avoid issues arising down the road.
First, I tell all of my athletes to understand that it’s OK to lose your motivation so they don’t feel like they have to hide that from me and just “get the work done”.
Second, I often hold athletes back during the winter months, preferring to unleash that motivation in the spring and summer when it can be used to much better means. Mental fatigue accumulates over time, so I account for the mental energy needed to get the training done. If we use up that mental energy in January and February, that can have a negative effect in March or April.
Finally, if the A race is more than six months away, I tell my athletes to set their A race and then forget it. Often, it is a vision of the A race that is used to overcome the dip in motivation. Instead, I have them focus on a B priority race, a general goal like increasing power, or a process goal like being consistent with their training. This gives them something to stay focused on that leads to better performance without the A race becoming a burden.
So as you lay out your schedule, don’t focus only on the physical training. Take into account the mental energy necessary to continually get workouts done and give yourself short breaks to reset and re-energize your mental state.
Coach AJ believes that the foundation of a great coach/athlete relationship is mutual agreement on a few core principles: the setting of realistic expectations and goals, honest and open communication and trust. Once we establish that base, I don’t follow a specific template. I tailor each plan to the individual and make adjustments along the way.