Become Really Good at One Discipline
As triathletes, we are constantly juggling multiple priorities: work, life, training, nutrition, recovery, etc. You really can’t wear a shirt that says, “Eat. Sleep. Train. Repeat.” because that shirt in no way represents everything that you do. If it were only that simple.
What most triathletes are doing is juggling all three disciplines across an entire season. As a result, the ebb and flow of training — and opportunities to create training stress — are limited by what you’re attempting to achieve within each week. By setting baseline requirements of swimming, biking, and running, you have effectively limited how much individual swimming, biking, and running you can do. You can only bike so much because you have to swim and run. You can only run so much because you have to swim and bike. The “goal” of that week’s training is limiting what you can do within any particular discipline.
Inside Endurance Nation we call the opportunity to push yourself in one discipline “Single Sport Focus.” It is during one of these periods – typically six weeks in duration – that we challenge you to push your fitness and personal limits in a particular discipline.
The vast majority of triathletes will benefit significantly from spending this focused training period on the bike. The demand of any triathlon is weighted towards excellent performance on the bike, so any extra time that you can spend cycling will benefit you. Additional cycling time not only yields performance gains, but makes you a more confident and competent cyclist. And believe it or not, there are gains to be had simply by knowing how to ride your bike better.
It’s not all about the engine.
More experience athletes may move to explore running or swimming. If you’re choosing either one of these disciplines here are some additional tips to help you out for the season:
If swimming is your focus, there are two elements to improvement across the season. The first is swimming consistently from an early date with a focus on technique for a significant period of time. We would recommend six-week block to kick off your year. Swim frequency will give you the competence and confidence to continue working on an improved some stroke when your total sum volume is reduced to allow for other training opportunities as your season progresses.
For running, it’s important that you be very, very careful. Additional running, especially with the sudden increase in mileage, can lead to an overuse injury or similar setback. Be smart and listen to your body. Plan your run volume targets off of the running that you have not only done in the last six weeks, on average, but also historical highs of one volume for the past season. In other words, if your biggest one week this past year was 40 miles, then targeting 80 miles for this one block is a week is not an option. Know your data, use you data.
This run block can also be conducted in the early part of your year. In this example, this is an opportunity to frontload the run training stress that you can carry into your season with a more manageable level of running.
In any of these cases, an early-season focus is easy because you don’t have a race staring you down. But is quite possible that doing this work in the middle of your season, especially on the bike or the swim, can yield additional benefits. Endurance Nation athletes have the benefit of not only using Focus Periods, but also our season planning advice in order to maximize the right training at the right time. If your incident when this concept further, should justly become a team member to get a Travel Season Roadmap and an introductory call to get dialed in.
Schedule Your Training into Your Calendar Every Week
Inside Endurance Nation we are constantly talking about the importance of consistency. Looking back at our athletes who have had breakthrough performances each season (an exercise that we do at the end of each year as we rewrite our training plans), it’s clear that the athletes who do the most consistent work see the best results.
Anyone can buckle down for a year and put in tremendous work but the level of that “tremendous effort” is limited by the work done before. So if you decide to wake up this year and try to get to Kona with massive swim, bike, and run miles… I have bad news for you. Last Year You (and the year before last year’s You) really are not interested in supporting that type of work. In other words, setting the conditions whereby you get the basic training done every day will help you become the best athlete you can be. There is no magic workout. The most important protocol–it has been said–is the one that gets you out the door and actually training.
One of the easiest ways to make this happen is to connect your training plan with your week. Your coach/plan has a “desired version” of what the weeks of book like. In many cases, that does not map with the actual reality that we all live in. Rather than waking up on Wednesday morning to find out your workout will not happen because of your schedule, block off 30 minutes every Sunday night to review your plan and your calendar and synchronize your thoughts.
Even if you can’t schedule every single workout, take an opportunity go through and make sure that you get the most important ones. If you have further questions, you can always reach out to your coach for more input on how to manage your schedule. The more lead time you have, the more you will be able to fix the issues that arise. Convesly, the less importance you assign to the daily implementation of your training plan, to lower your results will be.
Capture Your Lessons Learned
It always amazes me how much value people will assign to something they read in a magazine or website article. Just like the one you’re reading now, you are clearly getting one person’s bias or input. In many cases, that advisor’s input is a sample size lower than 20 athletes (most coaches simply don’t work with that many athletes). Inside Endurance Nation, we have the good fortune to work with over 1,000 athletes every season, managing their training and racing. As a result, within the context of a single year we are able to gather more data and experience than the average coach would gather in fifty (50!) years. The most powerful thing we have inside Endurance Nation isn’t a top secret workout, it’s years upon years of “lessons learned” from every type of age group triathlete imaginable.
The most important person you should be paying attention to in the triathlon training space is yourself.
Reading about what the pros eat is nice, but fixing what you eat is more important. Reading about what an elite each grouper did to get to Hawaii is kind of neat, but that has no bearing on what you’re doing with your training. Many folks say that triathlon is inherently selfish sport, and in many ways that’s true: A focus on yourself is required if you are going to reach your peak potential.
There are many ways that I see this manifest itself in training and racing. From a training perspective, it’s typically around volume. Somebody wants to get faster, and they look around at the local scene and see a fast athlete and look at her training and assume that in order to get fast like her, they should do the same training. Of course, she did a lot of different training before she got to be fast — simply looking at the stuff she’s doing now will help you achieve the fitness she has right now. It’s only going to have you miss the critical work she did before, the work that helped her to get to where she is now.
Nutrition is another easy example. It’s amazing to me how many people will attempt to fix their nutrition issues by simply eating or drinking what their friends eat and drink. While we don’t do that in our day-to-day diet, or when managing our weight, for some reason we like to do it when it comes to exercise nutrition. As any nutritionist will tell you, each of us is unique: we all have different body types, different activity levels at work, different training levels, different recovery windows, different dietary needs, etc. All those elements factor into creating ideal nutrition plan for you.
Your training and racing is no different than your nutrition. If you’re going to get better at racing then you have to understand where your weaknesses are. The best way to learn weaknesses is to actually race, and capture your lessons learned.
One of the first activities we have Endurance Nation athletes complete after the race is a race report. This is much more than an opportunity to brag or post lots of pictures, it’s a chance for you to capture – before the memories fade or are edited by your ego – everything so you can improve next time.
When people come to me four to six weeks out from the next big race for help with pacing, the first thing I ask is what they did last time. This is because past performance is the best predictor of future performance. Use what you did before to build out what you can do in the near future.
It’s always a red flight to me when someone says they want to run a 3:30 marathon… Yet their historical data doesn’t show a number faster than a 4:15. A 45-minute leap on the run in a race that is incredibly difficult. Rather than making goals that are incredibly hard, we recommend that you work incrementally. And that only possible if you are familiar with your background and your limitations.
Do yourself a favor and capture these lessons learned not only from racing, but also on the small changes you made in your training to your swim bike and run form or equipment that have yielded performance. Moving forward as you continue to seek gains you’ll have a history of the changes and breakthroughs that you made; this personal diary of excellence will be your biggest tool for maximum performance.
Become More Self Aware
As I mentioned earlier, our sport is inherently selfish. Iin order to be successful we need incredible amounts of time to ourselves to focus on our training, nutrition, recovery, etc. But what makes you a successful triathlete does not necessarily make you successful spouse, parents, coworker, boss, or friend. Having the ability to step back and take a look at what you’re doing and how well you are doing it is a critical tool that will not only help you be successful in our sport as a whole, but also just be a better person.
If you like video games, the example I enjoy giving is of a driving game where the perspective of the player is behind the car and slightly elevated. The idea is that you’re basically sitting right behind you watching you be yourself. How do other people perceive your actions? How do your actions affect other people? What would somebody else say about your training, or that race performance?
It’s always so easy to give other people advice, but is very hard to do so for ourselves. A common trait among successful endurance athletes is the ability to critically view their performance and make objective decisions about how to improve. I don’t want to slip into just talking about training however.
The longer you play the game, the better you’ll get at the game.
Being able to play the game triathlon for a longer period of time means that you have created a space within your life where you can continue to train and race be successful. This means making sure that the other people in your life are supportive of you. This means supporting them when they needed, managing and training in a way that doesn’t impact them significantly, etc. An easy example for this will be not scheduling a race for every single family vacation that happens in a given year sounds simple enough, but smart triathletes are able to avoid it.
There are critical times during the year – such as the winter when you’re not really training – you can prioritize other people. But there may be other times during the season where you will need to abruptly stop doing to focus elsewhere.. That’s simply life. It’s the you can plan for, but if you follow the rules of consistency above, and do your best to make sure that you are doing the right work but being focused on your critical success areas, then you will have the bandwidth and perspective to focus on what’s truly important when the need arises.
After all, this is all just a game. We are fortunate to have the health means to participate at any level. Never forget that what you have is a gift and do everything you can – every opportunity – to make sure that everyone around you nose this you are aware of this.
These are just a few resolutions for you to consider as you head into your next season. I know some of you would prefer goals that involve specific numbers targets or special apps you can download that will make you super.
The truth is far less sexy than you want it to be – hard work works. Doing the hard work on a personal, physical, in mental level will be the key to unlocking your true potential season.
Good luck to you, and feel free to share any of their advice and put in the comments below, thanks!