Here's an article I wrote recently for a publication. Enjoy!
Seven Highly Ineffective Habits of Triathletes
Ineffective habits are just that – they are habits because you’ve been doing them for awhile and they are not easy to change, they are ineffective because they stand in the way of reaching your potential and bringing out the best in yourself. Here are the seven highly ineffective habits of triathletes.
Stuck In A Rut
You know your routine and you’ve been following it day by day for years. And now you’ve reached a plateau and no longer improve your times. The body responds to versatility and change. Muscles have the ability to adapt to become as efficient as possible. Therefore, you must continually encourage your muscles to adapt to different workloads and new routines. Mix things up, try something new. Persistence to a routine often indicates a lack of confidence in trying new things or taking a risk. No one has ever achieved anything big without taking a risk. Make a change.
Going All Out All Of The Time
You know this person – they are in spin class pushing threshold efforts, they drop the hammer at mile 10 on a group run, they swim 100’s on the minute all before the New Year. Meet January’s National Champion. Unless you are competing for a spot next to them on the podium – in January – it’s best to reserve your harder, intense efforts for the later in the year. True, speedwork is very effective in making you fast. Prolonged high intensity efforts in the winter will have you peaking too soon, vulnerable to injury and set up for burn out before the season begins. Instead, work to build your aerobic base through the winter so your body is prepared for the higher demands and stresses of speedwork in the spring.
Getting In Your Own Way
Most athletes are capable of doing the hard work required for peak performance. However, most are not as good at staying out of their own way. Skipping workouts, lacking confidence in yourself, making excuses for yourself, doing more just “because”, eating poorly, skimping on sleep – these are all self-destructive habits that keep you in your own way. Athletes that achieve goals are good at staying out of their own way by trusting in themselves, committing to consistent training, and doing what it takes to achieve.
It is much easier to make excuses to explain away a dissatisfying situation or behavior than to take the time, commitment, and energy to change it. Whether you are dissatisfied with your weight, your habits, or your attitude, stop making excuses for yourself. Stop accepting that you can expect less of yourself. Instead, expect more and focus on proactive ways to change your situation. It doesn’t matter how you got to your current situation or what you’ve done. From this moment, make an action plan and commit to making a change.
Let’s Be Real
It’s always best to expect big things and look for more out of yourself. Yet, the best goals are those set with honesty and realism that you truly can achieve. If you have never run a 10K, expecting to break 40 minutes is not realistic for your first year. Nor is breaking 9:30 on the Ironman when you’ve never cracked 10. It takes years of muscular and mind development to achieve peak performance in sports. And peak performance is achieved by setting small, realistic goals over time. Be honest with your current situation and your limiters. Set goals that you realistically can achieve in the months ahead. Success with these smaller goals will pave the way for achieving bigger goals when the time is right.
Making Every Workout A Social Event
Working out with friends is fun. But sooner than later you might find yourself following everyone else’s goals at the cost of your own. Take the time to write out your personal goals for the year. Certainly they can include groups workouts, just be sure to stay true to your personal goals. If your friends are training for Ironman and you’re training for short course, it’s not the best idea to join them on a century ride. Decide where you want to go with sport. If your goal is fitness and fun, then going along with the group works well. If you have time or placement goals, it takes a little more patience and sacrifice to stick to your own plan to achieve your goals.
More Is More
If some is good than even more is better, right? Wrong. Triathlon is a fine example of how less is more. Because of the physical and mental demands of balancing three sports, doing the least amount of work is key to staying injury and achieving success. Often, athletes do more and more to make themselves feel confident they can do the distance. While they arrive at the race mentally confident, their body is physically trashed. What is less? Statistically speaking, staying under the margin of diminishing returns – the point in which more actually becomes less. This is achieved by following a progressive plan that balances quality workouts with recovery and a less is more attitude for success.
Chances are, every triathlete has made at least one of these mistakes – if not all! The good news is that you can turn these habits around. At the start of each season, you have a choice. You can choose to commit to the best plan possible to be best version of yourself. You can be as effective as you want to be by staying mindful of these inefficiencies and aiming to make the most of your time, energy, and goals. Often, a consultation with a coach or reputable book or website can give you ideas on how to turn your ineffective habits and routines into successful paths for achieving your goals.