Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Gift for Your 2014 Season

‘Tis the holidays! 

I can always tell when the holidays have arrived because my husband’s pumpkin pie consumption significantly increases (in other words: goes from zero to 8 pieces in less than 24 hours).  Right now, there’s a Costo-bought pumpkin pie in our refrigerator (little did you know Costco sells tasty pumpkin pie and, like everything else at Costco, in mammoth size).  My husband leaves the house at 5 am every morning.  And apparently, this morning, his workout was fueled by pumpkin pie.  Helps if you don’t leave the guilty evidence (fork and knife covered in PIE) in the sink, dear!

Along with the holidays comes spending.  Right now, there are many athletes wondering what to spend their money on for the 2014 season.  I’ve put together a list of where you can best invest your resources to literally get the most bang for your buck!

Coach:

Of course it helps that I am a coach.  But putting the shameless plug aside, most athletes can benefit from a carefully selected coach.  To me, coaching is a protection of the investment you’ve made with your finances (race fees, equipment, etc), emotional energy (goals, confidence), physical energy (what it takes to do the workouts) and time (not just to train but time to travel, spend away from the family).  A coach can simplify the complex, organize the day to day to keep you on track for the big picture and make the sport more enjoyable as they manage your progress.  Decide what’s important to you in a coach and then do your research to find a coach with those qualities.  Above all, never choose your coach based on price – choose it based on the value that coach can offer to you (which should include their experience with athletes, education, support with the peripheral factors, organization, form analysis, race planning and should not just include giving you workouts!).

Nutrition Consult:

Improving your diet is free speed through improved energy, recovery, health and performance.  Often a one time consultation is all it takes to unveil what you need to improve.  Look at both your daily fueling and sports fueling.  Commit to improving both!  Choose a reputable registered dietician who understands the demands of triathlon/ and endurance training (and the longer your race, the more specialiazed their understanding of the demands must be).  Make sure their general approach is one that you feel is not only beneficial but sustainable. 

Swim/Cycling/Running Lesson:

Better swimming leads to better biking and running.  Every triathlete, no matter how fast in the pool, can benefit from a swim lesson.  Improved swimming is more efficient swimming which leaves you with more energy to bike and run to your potential.  Hire a swim coach who can provide you with hands-on individualized feedback once a week for 6-8 weeks.  The same goes for cycling and running.  A monthly session with an experienced coach can improve your technique, skills and performance. 

Childcare:

Parents, this one is for you.  I’m talking about hiring a babysitter once a week so you can spend a little more time training, recovering or getting organized.  Maybe it’s Monday so you can swim with masters.  Maybe it’s on Wednesday so you can get in a midweek longer ride.  Maybe it’s on Friday so you can go to pilates or a strength class.  Or maybe it’s Sunday so you can get the grocery shopping done.  A little money spent on having someone else watch your child can reduce your stress levels and help you take care of you so you can train more consistently (and consistency is progress!).

Yoga:

There’s one you didn’t expect from me.  Especially as we get older, poor mobility can lead to injury, decreased range of motion, less power, stability and speed.  A weekly yoga class sets aside time for you to work on mobility, relax and also gives you ideas on poses/stretches you can complete at home.  Most studios have a variety of classes for your skill level and preferences.  Take advantage of Groupons or one-week-free yoga at studios to affordably put yoga into your schedule.  Also, I find that simply taking one hour to disconnect and focus on myself in yoga as good for the body as it is for the mind which leads to less stress, better mindset and health (remember, stress impairs immune functioning!). 

Strength Training:

How about a monthly strength training session?  All it takes is a 30 to 60 minutes with an experienced strength trainer to establish a routine you can perform on your own at home.  First, find a strength trainer who specializes in improving movement patterns – not just raw strength.  Second, find one who also understands the demands of triathlon.  Lastly, find someone who is flexible enough to design a routine based on the equipment you have access to home (or your gym) which allows you to replicate what you’re taught on your own.  Return every month to revamp your routine and assess your progress.

A Good Book:

A good book can change your mindset, your behavior and your life.  Think about what’s holding you back – is it confidence, time management, behavior, training approach?  Find a book that addresses this topic, set a nightly (or weekly) date with yourself and read!  Books that have changed the way I think about life and sports:  The Vision of a Champion, Stillpower, Do Work, Switch, The Power of Habit, Overachievement, Talent Is Overrated, Zero Regrets, Start with Why, The Alchemist, Which Comes First: Cardio or Weights, Bounce, Superbodies, Going Long, Developing Resilience, The Compound Effect, Endurance Sports Nutrition, Long Distance, The Pursuit of Excellence, Athletic Development, Choke, Mindset, The Untethered Soul.   

Train-cation:

The train-cation is a period of 3 to 5 days where you can leave your life and focus entirely on your training without the interruptions and stressors of daily life.  You can easily travel to a (warm) location that is known for easy to access swim/bike/run for an overloaded 3 – 5 days where you train, eat, sleep and recover.  Go solo or with a friend.  Space this out about 4 to 8 weeks prior to an important race to nail (and gain the most from) key sessions.  You can often get a big boost in fitness and confidence from these opportunities.

Time To Talk:

Let’s be honest, many who come to endurance sports do so because of problems in other areas of their lives; addictions, obsessions, depression and eating disorders.  These “problems” – so to speak – can get in the way of making long-term athletic progress and achieving optimal health.  Taking the time to talk with someone and working on yourself can free you up to perform.  Often when I find myself running into the same brick wall with an athlete – whether it’s low self-confidence, tendency to overtrain, improper fueling – I ask the athlete to consider talking to someone about it.  This doesn’t have to be a therapist, per se, it might be setting aside the time to talk with a close friend, a mentor, your pastor or someone you can openly share yourself with to get honest feedback and productive ideas on how to change.

Gadgets:

This one falls last on the list because I believe everything above will be far more powerful and effective than any gadget your money will buy.  Why?  Because everything I mentioned above underlies great performance – strength, mobility, proper fueling, mindset, knowledge, confidence, consistency and the time to truly commit.  If you’re interested in gadgets, the new Garmin is a great tool for assessing your running (ie., it measures vertical oscillation & cadence).  A power meter will help you truly understand what it takes to improve your cycling (ie., how pressure on the pedals translates to power, speed).  A bike fit from a reputable professional can make you more comfortable, efficient and improve your run off the bike.  Improved fork, wheels, helmet and components on your bike can make you more aerodynamic and faster.  Lighter run shoes for racing can improve your speed.  A FINIS swim snorkel, Stroke Maker paddles and Zura Fins are my preferences for swim equipment to develop a better stroke and make swimming more fun.

Hopefully I’ve helped you to think outside of the traditional gift box when it comes to ways to spend for the upcoming season.  Don’t think of these as extra expenses.  Instead, consider them investments to enhance everything else you’re spending time and money on in the sport. 


Happy holidays! 

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