The Power of the Third D

a group of explorers in the arctic
January 9, 2017

Dave Sheanin


tagged in:

One of the immutable laws of triathlon training is that you can't cram. Let's face it, cramming for academic tests isn't a great strategy for long term success anyhow. If you didn't learn that lesson in school, your hobby (triathlon) will teach it to you again and again.D3 stands for "Desire, Determination, Discipline." Let's spend a little time talking about that third D. For most of us, it's now the offseason. This is a great time to relax and recharge. Eat a little more than you should and take some days off from training, go for a hike or a walk. Leave your Garmin at home. Clear your brain and get ready for the mental and physical aspects of training again. For a lot of athletes, taking it easy takes discipline for sure! Treat your offseason seriously so you're ready when it's time to start up your training again.

During the day, I work for Jim Collins. Jim has written several best-selling books that are typically regarded as business books. But there are plenty of take-aways that translate to personal success. In "Great by Choice" Jim recounts the story of two explorers (Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott) who, in 1911, set out independently within days of each other with their teams to be the first people in modern history to reach the south pole. This was a 1,400 mile journey across a very challenging landscape with harsh weather.

Amundsen led his team on their trek by making some progress every day. Even when the conditions were good and his team could go longer, he would stop them once they reached their daily travel goal to make sure they were rested for the next day's effort. When the weather was bad, his well-prepared team would still travel. Alternatively, Scott's strategy was to take his team to its limits on the good days and hunker down and wait, often exhausted, in uncomfortable conditions.

Guess who arrived first? It shouldn't be a surprise that Amundson and his team arrived at the pole a full month before Scott's team. Amundson's team made the return trip home safely and exactly on schedule. The frozen bodies of Scott and his team were found eight months later. There was more to Amundson's success and Scott's failure than their daily movement strategies, but the consistency of Amundson's approach was a major factor in his success.

We call this concept of consistent and smart movement‚ covering the right amount of ground each day the, 20-mile march. Every day‚ day after day‚ you march‚ 20 miles‚ rather than marching to exhaustion one day and nothing the next. This is where we'll turn to triathlon training.

What is your 20-mile march?

Some triathletes 20-mile march to their goal race. Others are inconsistent with their training or are weekend warriors‚ doing very little on weekdays and cramming long training days into the weekends. Who do you think gets to the finish line faster on race day? Who do you think is more likely to stay injury-free through the season? Who do you think is more likely to be happy with the results of his or her season?

This is where coaching is a critical factor for sure. (I'll admit that I'm a big fan of coaching!) But, each athlete has to take responsibility for his or her own 20-mile march. Your coach can lead you, but you have to take the steps. Paying for coaching points you in the right direction but, it doesn't get the work done.

There will always be days that you don't want to train. It's too windy. It's too cold. You don't feel 100 percent. Guess what? On race day, it might be windy or cold or you don't feel perfect. If you've never or rarely trained when conditions aren't ideal, how do you plan to race in those conditions?

Commit to your 20-mile march next season. It takes discipline to go for a nighttime run when you're exhausted from your work day and the kids put up a fight at bedtime. It takes discipline to squeeze in a little training by commuting to work by bike rather than driving your car. It takes discipline to go to bed at 9:00pm so you're rested for your 5:00am alarm that gets you to your early masters swim workout on time. These are the little things that make a difference between you and that rival in your age group who always gets to the finish line first.

So take a little time during your off-season to reflect and project. How will you 20-mile march during your 2015 season? What specifically can you do to carve out the time you need to reach your goals? Are you more likely to train consistently and effectively alone or with a partner? What do you want to work on during the off-season (and does your coach know)? What's your plan for improvement? How much time will you have each week for training in the spring? How about during the summer? Have you selected a race schedule that allows you to march successfully? Don't just think about these questions, write down answers and make a plan. Talk to your coach about your plan. Make 2015 your best season yet commit to marching with discipline!

Coach Dave Sheanin approaches coaching from a holistic perspective. Adult age-group triathletes typically have substantial demands in their lives outside of training and racing. Looking at any individual component of an athlete's training (or life) is a data point, but it rarely tells the full story. I make it a priority to understand what's going on in an athlete's life beyond triathlon in order to build a plan that is smart, fits their lifestyle, and builds toward appropriate goals.

Coach Dave Sheanin is an advocate for aligning triathletes with their race goals. He believes that becoming “triathlon literate” is key to meeting your goals. Triathlon is indeed a lifestyle and like the other important areas of your life, knowledge is power. He encourages you to explore the nuances of the sport, be open to new ideas and ask questions – of yourself, of fellow swimmers, cyclists and runners, and of your coach.  

Coach Dave is a USA Triathlon and Training Peaks Certified Coach.  Coach Dave was honored by USA Triathlon with the Community Impact Award.

schedule a call