This is typically the part of the season when you start finishing up your ‚ÄòA‚Äô races, and start to reflect on the past several months. Maybe you met your goals, or maybe you have that sense that you could have gotten a little bit more out of yourself. If you are a newer athlete, (someone that has only been participating for 1-3 years) your consistency of training, finding a pattern and learning about your body and abilities has yielded a nice steady progression. With more experienced athletes, the differences might not be obvious. You know you do the work, but are maybe you are sabotaging yourself or your goals due to diet or other choices? Following are four steps you can use to look back and assess yourself ‚Äì it‚Äôs an exercise in honesty as much as anything. But that honesty will give you the information you need to make next season even better!
Did you take the time to get adequate recovery? Did you take a break? Did you go out and ride and run for fun vs. with focus and intention?
Consider taking some time off, step away from the bike, and your running shoes for just a little bit (periodically) throughout the year so that you can refresh. Make those family vacations truly vacations. Don‚Äôt wait tell injury or general lack of enthusiasm make training another stressor in your life. Don‚Äôt add extra workouts on recovery weeks because you feel good. Have fun and maybe on a recovery week consider going for a hike, sleeping in, and doing something outside of your training routine as a reward for the hard work. Yummmy ‚Äì ice cream!
2. Be Flexible (Performance Enhancement)
As we get older we tend to be less flexible. Lets assume I am discussing physiology. If you think about it, triathlon is a one-dimensional sport. Everything is forward motion, and thus the trained athlete soon may develop a muscular system that is not very pliable in any other direction. Did you know that stretching may increase power output? Stretching may increase stride rate and stride length, that stretching may make you more aero and hydrodynamic. If you can‚Äôt plantar flex your foot in the pool, if your calves are too tight on that run, if your back and hamstrings are too tight on the bike, you may really be missing out on a lot of easy athletic speed and potential. Given time constraints consider ditching an easy workout in exchange for a yoga class or something similar as you may find some helpful gains. Yes, yes, you‚Äôve heard it over and over, but start stretching before injuries and tightness plague your workouts. Do it as an athletic, free, legal, safe, healthy performance enhancement.
3. Strength (You need this)
I believe strength is a very valuable asset, See above #2. That‚Äôs right, strength training can increase our range of motion. Assess what your capable of and always stay within your limits, but at the same time, get in and get some strength on! It can be in a typical gym setting or a body weight routine without a lot of weight. Whatever it is, make time to do a routine and keep your body balanced. You may need to spend a touch bit more time and effort on the muscle groups that are less activated during swimming, biking and running. Keys to a good strength routine include: mixing up your routine, add spin strength sessions, and find a strength partner.
4. Build Confidence
One of the best ways to build confidence is simply having fun with the sport. Take things in stride. Being mentally flexible when life presents stressors and things that jump in the way of your routine. Trust yourself and your strengths. Trust this history of your workouts. Build confidence by acknowledging the athlete that you, and keep tabs on the one that you want to be!
One simple, mental trick I use is instead of simply going through the motions to get the workout done, I give myself a pep talk. Sometimes I‚Äôll say a simple, ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a one hour workout, be the best you can be for this one hour.‚Äù Really become and emulate being the athlete you want to be for that short moment, or throughout that one-hour workout. Become that athlete!
That means practice and let go of any anxiety you have about that sport. Maybe its fear of open water, perhaps it‚Äôs the fear of descending on the bike, or that you really hate hills. Just put your best foot forward in practice and train your weakness. Do not avoid the things you don‚Äôt like. If you hate hills, you may need to spend more time doing them. If it‚Äôs the open water, make it a point to hit the open water as often as possible before your race.
Ask for help! Hop on a message board and ask other athletes, ask a D3 coach, ask another athlete you see training. How do you descend a mountain quickly safely and confidently? How do you swim in open water without anxiety? How should I approach hills? A lot of it will come through experience, but tips and tricks you pick up from others will go a long way toward improving your next season.
Coach Jim Hallberg believes that every athlete has the capacity to improve efficiency, get stronger and run, bike or swim faster. Sure, it takes time, dedication and discipline but it‚Äôs possible. Working with an experienced coach can make sure that your efforts are targeted in the right areas to make sure you reach those goals!