Part of any
well-rounded athletic training program includes realistic goal
setting. Goal setting can be as simple as losing X amount of
weight and 'getting into better shape,' or include targeting a
specific time / performance goal at a specific event. In the
endurance athletic world the tendency is towards the latter although
there is nothing wrong at all with the former.
As the season progresses, you
should see measurable results via improved body composition,
increased endurance, and increased speed at certain effort levels.
These interim milestones allow you to adjust your future expectations
upwards or downwards.
Interruptions and adjustments
are a part of life. Most adult triathletes have multiple
commitments including family harmony and work-related stress like
travel, deadlines, and unsupportive bosses. Your initial goal
of winning your age group in a big race may not be realistic after
you had to spend two weeks visiting multiple job sites and working 15
hour days. Or you may run into the cold hard reality that you
are not, in fact, Superman or Superwoman and can only burn the candle
at both ends for a few days at a time before you need time off of
training to mentally rest and relax.
In an ideal world, you will
successfully handle all of the above as well as the sort of training
required to meet your goals. You'll arrive at your goal race
well-prepared to execute and meet or beat your personal goals.
However, that's not always
the case. Everything in sum may become overwhelming. If
this sounds like you, here are a few tips to keep yourself motivated
and enjoying all the training you are able to complete.
Prioritize. Make sure
you understand what is most important to you and then work from
there. Most of us put more value into keeping our families
happy and keeping our jobs.
Adjust your time commitment
and performance goals. If your
original Ironman season plan had your average hours set at 15 hours
of training per week (for example), accept that this may be
unrealistic for you. Slice a couple hours off and expect to be 5-10%
slower than you would have been. You can still have a great day
and will be in terrific shape.
Make it social.
Endurance athletics is ultimately an individual sport where you excel
through your personal work habits and individual ability. You can
take some of the sting out of lowered expectations by expanding your
worldview to value the social side of training with groups and
Enjoy the little things.
Rather than stress about not being able to repeat sub-6 minute miles
(for example) on a running interval day, revel in the fact that you
can do several miles at sub-6:30 pace and
come back to train again the following day.
Take the long view. While
this particular season or training cycle may not be the best you
could have achieved had everything else in your life gone according
to plan, doing the best you can with the time and energy you do have
will set you up for future successes, when life outside of athletics
may not be so challenging.
Success in endurance
athletics is not built on one season of training and racing
alone. You may have heard of the 10,000 hour rule. This is the
idea that it takes that many hours of practice to become truly
skilled in an endeavor. While it may not take quite that much
time for each individual, it gives you some idea of the amount of
work it takes to become really, really good. Those superfast
athletes you are hoping to mix it up with did not start out that
way. All of them have practiced consistently for years and
years. No one can jam that much practice into just one season!
When push comes to shove,
your satisfaction in sport is based on simple factors: Accepting your
current limitations and doing the best you can to challenge those
limitations within the framework of the rest of your life. Do that, and you will have the mental capacity to
repeat the athletic goal setting process for the rest of your
life. Rage against the machine and you will experience
untimely burnout and frustration, which will negatively affect both
your physical and mental well-being.
CSCS, is lead coach and co-founder of One Step Beyond. Marty and his
wife Brianne work with endurance athletes around the globe.