Here are some thoughts from Coach Danielle as we head into a New Year of training, Some good stuff!!
You’re inspired by the New Year, but it’s winter, the days are short, maybe your neighborhood is buried under a foot of snow, and triathlon season feels like it may never start up again… Sound familiar? You’re not alone! The winter training blues happen to everyone whether you live in a warm southern climate or the frigid north. Everyone struggles with motivation and consistency as they recover from their previous season and start laying the foundation for the next year of racing.
Here are a few tips and techniques to keep you moving in a positive direction through the long winter months…
Take some time to reflect on what triathlon means to you. What do you enjoy about training and racing? What parts of the experiences are most enjoyable to you? Triathlon is a sport and it should be fun! Whenever you feel like you’re getting too serious or stressed out about training (or the thought of training) – remember that triathlon is something we get to do, not something we have to do. Plus, “If it’s not fun, why do it?” (Ben & Jerry’s).
Set goals and targets. Dream big! Are you trying to beat a time from last season? Are you racing to raise money or awareness for a special cause? Are you racing to challenge yourself by completing a new distance? Write this down and share it with someone! You don’t have to post it for the world to see if you don’t want, but writing it and verbalizing it by sharing it with at least one other person will help you feel more accountable to that goal. Dream big – if you want to race that championship race, don’t be afraid to say it. Don’t sell yourself short by not being honest about your goals. Once you have a main goal in place, your coach can help you with a timeline for achieving that goal as well as help you set intermediate goals (or more short term goals) as stepping stones along your journey.
Focus on the process – How are you going to get yourself to that finish line in time to earn that personal record? What do you need to focus on to get there? What are your weaknesses and strengths (Including physical, mental, nutritional)? How do you utilize or address each? By focusing on the steps necessary to reach that goal, you are investing in the day-to-day process of training. You will strengthen your motivation and build a sense of accomplishment as you complete your workouts knowing you’re laying the groundwork for races in the upcoming year. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to reach your racing goals, and progress and accomplishments along the way should be recognized and celebrated. If the only thing you focus on is that singular end result or a finish at one race, and that one day happens to go poorly for whatever reason (snow, bears, illness, etc.), you may feel like all your hard work was for nothing. Meanwhile, you may be running faster than you ever have before, or are much stronger on the bike that even just months ago, but all those accomplishments may go completely unnoticed because of the extreme disappointment you feel when one race day does not go according to plan. Dedication, consistent training, and hard work will lead to big results, but you must be patient and appreciate your unique process. Your coach can help you recognize your progress and keep you focused on the process of achieving your goals throughout your entire season. Your coach can also help you realize that all race experiences are valuable opportunities to learn something that will make you a better athlete in the future.
Train your brain. As athletes, we often place great emphasis on the physical aspects of our training, but sometimes ignore the mental preparation necessary to achieve our goals. The winter months or off-season are a great time to lay a solid mental training foundation and build healthy habits for the upcoming season. There are many techniques you can use to train your brain for race day success, and these should be practiced throughout your training just like your sport-specific drills. Visualization, for example, is a technique in which athletes make a mental image of himself/herself achieving a target or goal. For example, you picture yourself crossing the finish line at a key race in record time and think about what it would feel like in that moment. Many athletes develop these images early in the season and use them to stay motivated throughout the year. As you start to see yourself crossing that finish line of your goal race (or accomplishing whatever goals you set for yourself), keep some visual reminders of your goal close by during workouts for an added boost (ex: print your race registration and physically post it on your wall, or a course map, etc.). Practicing mindfulness during workouts will also help you remain focused and prepare you for what you can expect on race day. For example, while riding your bike trainer or completing a challenging interval run, focus entirely on the workout and how you feel throughout the session. Keep a memory of what it felt like to challenge yourself and push through a tough set. You can draw from this memory during a race when you begin to struggle or doubt creeps in during training. Mantras are another tool many athletes find helpful when integrated in racing. These are short, positive, reaffirming statements that can be repeated during workouts and races to help you maintain focus and drive. For example, you can recall a great workout segment (ex: min/mi off the bike!!!), a saying that always brings you to a positive state of mind (ex: smile every mile!), or borrow a line from a movie (or a famous quote you really like). It may take some time to find the techniques that work best for you, but your patience and persistence will be rewarded on race day! Ask your coaches, teammates, and friends for tips too!
Don’t be afraid to mix it up. There are tons of off-season activities that build muscle strength (ex: hiking!) and endurance (ex: snow sports) that can provide a welcome change from the usual swim, bike, run routine. Joining a fitness group, trying new sports, or getting your family members involved in your workouts are all excellent ways to stay motivated and in shape throughout the winter months. Triathlon training does not need to be the only activity in your life, so if there are other interests you have, try to also include those in your weekly schedule. This will help you avoid burnout and having these other outlets may actually help you focus or stay on task while completing your triathlon-specific workouts. Your coach can help advise you on the amount of time you would need to spend on your triathlon workouts to achieve your goals and help make a schedule that works well with everything else that is important in your life.
Best of luck with your winter workouts and may 2017 bring you many wonderful athletic adventures! Please contact any of us here at Red Performance Multisport anytime to help you stay on track as you prepare for your next great season of endurance racing. We are happy to provide you some references for each of these techniques and provide you any tips we have learned along the way.