It’s the new year and now is the time. It’s time to set yourself up with patterns and behaviors that will determine the success of your 2011 season. You’re doing the training, recovering hard and trusting that in a few months, all of the work and sacrifices will get you to your goal.
Some athletes set the best goals but then fall short. Why? I’ve thought at length about what it takes to be successful. But what if we flip it. When someone falls short, what brings them there? There is a certain amount of luck that is required on race day to reach your goal. About .1 percent. Luck with the weather, equipment and other unforeseen circumstances. The remaining 99.9 percent is in your hands by way of the choices you make. So what are some of the things athletes do to derail themselves?
Mistrusting the coach or plan
It’s pretty simple. If you believe in what you are doing, it is that much more likely to work. Coaching is more about making a connection with someone you trust than it is about secret workouts or price. When you lose confidence in the plan, it doesn’t matter how great your preparation was, doubt eats away at that and robs you of energy on race day. You’ll always be wondering did I do enough? Will it work? Mistrust consumes a lot of emotional and mental energy. On race day you need both. Choose your plan or coach wisely, then commit to it 100 percent. If you have any doubts, immediately address them – be brave enough to ask the questions and also mature enough to listen to the answer.
Overanalyzing the workouts
Data is good but there can be too much of a good thing. Power files, Garmin files, WKO+ - honestly none of that matters as much as this simple question: how did you feel today? In general, you should feel good for about 80 percent of your workouts for the week. The other 20 percent falls into the categories of off energy, cumulative fatigue or reasons never to be known. The less successful get stuck in that 20 percent, start to beat themselves up, perhaps even doubt, letting a few bad workouts derail their confidence. Do the work, and a few weeks later, step back and look at the pattern over time – not the day to day. If you see an upward trend, it’s working. Stay focused on the big picture and let go of the day to day analysis.
Missing the workout window
We all lead busy lives, often going from one activity to the next. But when you consistently skip from workout back to real life without taking time to recover, you set yourself up for under-recovery. Over time, enough under-recovery will impact your performance. There are a lot of fancy formulas and numbers about what to do and when after a workout. Bottom line, within 30 minutes put something in your mouth. Whether it’s a recovery bar, chocolate milk or a well-rounded meal, your body is receptive to energy that helps you repair and rebuild. When you master that process, you grow stronger from each workout and make progress.
Searching for clues
Searching for clues is what we do often online. We read forums, blogs, Facebook status updates for clues about what we need to do. Or, for feedback that what we are doing is right or wrong. So many are convinced that what they are doing is never enough or that there has to be a secret way. Not only is all of this reading/searching information overload, but it becomes, what I call, junk food for the mind. Junk food meets our immediate needs for gratification but long term can have consequences. Spend enough time worrying about what other people are doing and comparing yourself and you’ll end up with low confidence and mistrusting your plan. This year, step back a little and feed your head the healthy stuff. Take a social media holiday, after a few days see how you feel about yourself and what you are doing.
Skipping the easy stuff for the hard stuff
The hard stuff is fun, isn’t it? It makes us sweat and leaves us with that feeling that we did something. You wake up sore the next day and feel like you worked hard, you accomplished something. Yet when you only do the hard work, you miss out on the foundation that allows you to benefit and stay healthy from the hard work. The easy work, though boring, is often the most important. Why? Because triathlon is an endurance sport. Honestly the bulk of your training should be aerobic and easy. Not la-la pace but “sustainable”. If you’re going to do something for 2 to 17 hours, you need to do it at a pace you can hold. Too much hard stuff and too little easy stuff often leads to peaking too early, injury or burnout. Take the time to slow it down and do the work that works!
Outcome vs Process
In our results-oriented culture, it’s easy to become focused on the end result while losing sight of the process. When you place all of the importance on the destination, you miss out on the beauty of the experiences, connections and lessons along the way. When an athlete falls short of their goal, it can be very black or white – success or failure. As someone who has both succeeded and failed, I’ve found that setting smaller process goals along the way, finding the lessons learned in the ‘failure’ make any endeavor a success. It’s just a matter of perspective.
It can’t be that easy
Some athletes overcomplicate what it takes for success. The truth is that to bring out the best your athletic ability, nothing replaces consistency. Consistent work is progress. The most consistent work you can do, day after day, the more likely you will succeed. Consistency is making the commitment to getting up early, running in the cold, saying no sometimes to social engagements, eating well, sleeping more, doing drills. All of these little things, done over time, add up to big success. Yes, it really can be that easy. You just do the work, day after day, and you'll get closer.
Keep it in perspective
Keep in mind that we all do this for fun. When someone takes the sport too seriously and places too much of self-worth in their performance, they set themselves up to fail. I believe Ben or Jerry once said, if it’s not fun, why do it? This goes back to setting realistic goals in the first place. If you don’t find riding your trainer for 3 hours fun, then don’t train for an early spring half Ironman. If you don’t like swimming, then consider duathlon. Remember, you choose to do this and it should be something fun. Moreover, how you do in this sport, in the big picture, does not mean much about who you are. Perspective! I often tell myself, it’s just triathlon. Whether you finish first or DFL, in the big picture of life, only the 100,000 members of USA Triathlon really care. There are billions of people in the world!
The new year is an exciting place to be. It’s that feeling of a “clean slate” that makes us feel like no matter what happened in the past, this year we can truly be something great. Sometimes we get in our own way with overthinking, unnecessary pressure or inconsistency. This year, commit to changing one thing that has stood in your way. Maybe you can recover harder, commit to your plan or set weekly goals to keep yourself motivated. Success is within reach for everyone. Keep yourself focused on what it takes to get there and expect the best from yourself.
Happy new year!