Contributed by Coach John Taipale, NASM, USAT
Have you ever thought about why you do this sport? Ok, why do you really do this sport? It’s not an easy thing to answer. Hopefully you don’t arrive to the conclusion that this is kind of a waste of time. But rather, your answer brings a tear to your eye or a chill down your spine. If so, you’re likely on the right track.
My grandma often asks me the same question, “Why the hell do you do that!? I don’t understand it!” My response, “well…it’s a long story. I don’t understand knitting, Grandma.”
Triathlon may just be a hobby for you – I get that. But, considering the work/effort each of you put in, while exuding a lot of passion, I am suggesting this is more important to you than darts or Tuesday night bowling. Most people use running (for example) as punishment: miss a free throw, go run; PE students misbehave, go run. But you are running all year long – as enjoyment. Other people swim, run, or bike for exercise, but what you are doing is not the same thing. Right?
The point is that placing human emotion into the equation makes it different; human emotion will make you a faster triathlete. Did you know, in war, you shoot your gun more accurately when the target is shooting back at you? Or, why is it that when I play the guitar, it sounds different than Jimmy Page’s guitar? Ok, I’ll come clean, it just sounds different in general. But, this is suggesting there’s an element of art involved in our sport. It allows for your identity, expression, feelings, and emotions to boil to the surface. It is the ultimate X factor. Athletes have proven that many times: “Based on my calculations, that can’t be done”…“Hey, Mr. Lab Coat, PhD – with the nose in the air – it just got done.” The mind powers the body.
It might take awhile to answer the above question about why you do this sport – maybe the whole year. That’s why I’m talking about it now. But, training for these things is like a marathon not a sprint, so it’s nice to have some purpose – it is more rewarding in the end.
Once you understand why you do what you do, the next step is to create your specific goals. Perhaps you start with an ultimate goal, such as qualify for worlds/nationals, place top five in your age group, or simply to shave a few seconds off of last year’s time. You may arrive at some race times to focus on – those are good. But eventually, you should establish some times that you want to shoot for in your marker sets. We will have an increased focus on these marker sets in the year ahead. These sets are critical. They show your progress. They are more replicable and more accurate than race times. They also prove how fast and you are. For example, I know that every morning it will take 14 minutes to boil my eggs. It’s not cocky; I just know. You should race the same way. (This gets into confidence, which is a different lesson for a different day). You may have other goals: body fat reduction, weight loss, less injuries, do a longer race, impress a significant other, etc. Whatever your goals are, they drive the whole season.
Last step, plan your season. You should document your goals and race schedule. The more detail, the better. They should, for the most part, circle back to the first question; they should generate some emotions. If you could send some me (and Coach Bees) your 2015 goals/race schedule that would be great! I do not need to see your reasoning behind them.
“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” – unknown
The “off season” is a good time to develop habits, such as, a weekly training schedule (that is not too strenuous), going to bed at the same time, waking up at the same time, and good eating habits. It should be second nature: get up, workout, eat healthy, brush your teeth, and get on with your day. Perhaps not in that order, but it becomes your lifestyle. Try to abide by the 90% healthy and 10% unhealthy rule, which, in theory is a good balance. Don’t beat yourself up when you slip – you’ll be back on track tomorrow. I am of course available for more detailed help on nutrition too.
Whatever your goals, and whatever your motivation, use this “off” season as a time to reevaluate and reorganize your priorities, and then refocus to get them done. Make the months ahead a step in the right direction and not two steps backward.
Coach John Taipale of Soles Inspired is a retired Army Ranger and USA Triathlon All-American Honorable Mention athlete. He is currently back in school for his masters degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology at University of Wisconsin. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.