Off-season: Start with the most important step
Alun “Woody” Woodward, Coach, ironguides.net
At ironguides, our whole philosophy is based upon improving one step at a time or, as we like to call it, brick by brick. As coaches we are here to guide you in your fitness journey and take you to where you want to go. The first thing we need to know from an athlete, though, is where it is that you want to go—what do you want to achieve? Once an athlete, and her coach, knows the key goal we are aiming for, it is time to get to work.
As we head into the off-season, now is the perfect time for novice and experienced athletes alike to sit down with their coaches, family and friends, or simply by themselves, to determine the goals for the coming year. Off-season is always an exciting time for many athletes; the race season is finished and we are looking ahead to the future and all the big improvements we will make over the coming months. We see ourselves being more dedicated than ever, following routines that we failed to follow this year; we promise ourselves we will not be lazy this year; we will not have that cheesecake so often; we will not stay in the office so long; and we will not press the snooze button so often in the morning and miss swim practice.
We all see how we can improve, we all believe we will improve but habit is habit and after just a short few weeks we all fall back into our lazy routine. Never forget that this is human nature. We are born lazy. We are created to feed and survive—once that’s done it’s time to rest! Take lions, for example, once they have caught their prey and eaten their fill, they will literally do nothing until they need to feed again. We are not really all that different, primarily speaking. So, is there a way around our natural laziness? What can we do to make sure we stay on path and fulfill our goals?
The good news is that there are many ways to do break our habits and make sure we stay focused on pursuing our athletic dreams. Looking at the top athletes, we find some great examples. Let’s look at some ideas about how to make this coming season the best ever.
This has to be one of the most motivating of all methods, which is quite simply stating publicly what you are going to do. There are many ways to do this, either via a blog, at the office, within your local tri club. No matter which public avenue you choose, this will have an amazing effect. When you’re tired one morning and the thought of the cold swimming pool is not going to get you out of bed, you will remember what you said, you will remember why and what the consequences will be if you just roll over and go back to sleep as maybe you did the year before. One classic example of this strategy has to be two-time Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack: we always hear about his goals, what he is going to do and who he is going to beat as he publicly announces it as often as possible. It’s the fuel he needs to get out there and train and, needless to say, it works amazingly well for him.
IN YOUR FACE
Put your goals on paper and stick them some place you will see them every single day. Put them on the mirror in the bathroom, on the wall in your toilet or in front of your dining table. We can all set goals and most of us do. We also write them down but, honestly, once that’s done most athletes will never see that piece of paper again and the goals simply do not become reinforced or important.
WE NEED TO SEE OUR GOALS EVERY DAY
Once we start seeing our goals every day, we make sure that we take steps every day to achieve them. Visually reminded of our goals on a daily basis, we subconsciously make better decisions throughout the day. Say, your goal is to reduce body fat. A visual cue by way of a note on your desk reminding you of this every day will make you think twice before taking the doughnut offered around during lunch. If you did not see or think about the goal for a few weeks, it is much easier to cave in and grab the doughnut—after all, what difference is one doughnut going to make?!
Set goals along the way so that they are in the here and now, rather than only for six to eight months down the road. Having a target so far away is rarely productive as it’s easy to lose sight of that in the short term. We always think we have time before we REALLY need to focus. This is the most common situation with athletes and they are so relaxed until they realize it’s too late and they only have a few weeks to get fit! These are the athletes who cram their training and get injured as a result, these are the athletes who you will always hear saying NEXT YEAR, NEXT YEAR is when I will be more disciplined, prepare better and earlier, this will never happen again. But it happens every year. So let’s see what you can implement from all this to make next year your best ever.
First, let’s set some goals. Maybe your swim has always let you down as you spend most of your time focussed on the run and the bike. Let’s make swim the primary focus for a while. Maybe add one extra swim session a week or a couple of swim camps (4-day swim-specific blocks) over the period of the next two months.
On top of that, set a performance target to achieve at the end of this block. If you can swim all day, but speed is your limiter then set a target to work on speed. Maybe a simple set of 4×100 ALL OUT beginning on a 5-minute start time with the goal of hitting all below 1:30.
On the other hand, if you can swim very fast but struggle with race distance then we can make endurance the target. Push the boundaries and target a 5km continuous swim as your goal. Once you achieve your goal make sure it’s maintained. Test once every two or three weeks to make sure you’re not losing all your hard-earned advances.
Old-school training methods coming out of Germany had athletes divide the winter into 3 blocks with 2 months of swim focus, followed by 2 months of run focus and then ending with 2 months of bike training. The aim was high mileage for the blocks in the chosen sport and just very minimal maintenance work in the other sports.
What this achieved, unfortunately, was amazing swimming in January, amazing running but a fading swim in March and then, as the season approached, an amazing bike performance with a terrible swim and an average run.
Never forget, we train in 3 sports and key sessions need to be there every week. We should focus more on 2 sports at any one time as we practice with The Method to advance in performance but we never neglect development in all 3. Always remember, goals are individual and what will make one athlete faster may significantly slow another down—make sure the goal is significant for you and will help you move forward.
Let’s make 2015 the one where we show what you really can do, one where you do not get in your own way and end up following your normal path to destruction. Sit down with your coach, family and friends and have them tell you your weakness, have them tell you where you need to improve, and write it down and then display it so you see every day. Make your roadmap of where you want to get to next season and then start on your way, building brick by brick toward the new you.
ironguides is the leading Lifestyle Facilitation company for athletes of all abilities. We provide coaching and training services, plans and programs, as well training education, health and fitness products to help you learn and live a healthy lifestyle. Come get fit with one of our monthly training subscriptions, event-specific training plans, coaching services, or a triathlon training camp in an exotic location! ironguides also provides Corporate Health services including Corporate Triathlons, Healthy Living retreats and speaking engagements. At ironguides, your best is our business!
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