Get Your Motor Runnin’…

Posted: April 10, 2013 in Lifestyle
Tags: ,

That title seems as good as any seeing as how the new 2013 racing season is nearly upon us.  And as such, lately, I have been receiving some emails from friends new to the sport asking for my specific secrets or tips for their own training and preparation leading up to their first triathlon.  Truthfully, I have none.  Coming into this sport originally on a whim, I knew practically nothing.  As such, I made every mistake known to mankind.  I just considered myself lucky simply to have survived my first year.  Then, as luck would have it, I started working with a Coach from whom I started to learn about structure, scheduling, establishing proper bases and all that other crazy ass shit that probably makes most rookie triathletes eyes glaze over.  And I hear you, it gets complicated.

This year I am going it alone.  Not because I didn’t want a Coach, but because after four years I’m sure she’s sick and tired of my endless questions, gripes, complaints and demands for a new schedule.  And who can blame her?  So now I’m learning to apply all this accumulated knowledge and plan out my own race season in 2013.  God help me.

I’m still no one to offer training advice, but I can suggest a few things to new triathletes to chew on before completely jumping in with both feet.  You might consider these then as the major key lessons I have learned thus far.  For me, these have become my own personal mantra in dealing with and coping with the often challenging world of multi-sport.

1.        Set a goal.

When I first started in triathlon I just joined everything willy-nilly.  I didn’t have an A-Race, or a B-race for that matter.  I just showed up and gave it my all; which is fine I guess, but I didn’t have the good wherewithal to plan my season around a well-established goal.  Looking back at that first season, all my race times got progressively slower – not that I cared much at the time.  I was happy if I didn’t end up as a greasy stain somewhere along the race course.  I had no concept then of scheduling and planning my training around, and leading up to a certain event, at which, I wanted to do particularly well.

What I know now is to plan well in advance which events I want to do particularly well at and then base my training schedule around a specific timeframe so that, come race day, I am not only well prepared, but adequately rested and ready to kick some ass.  Other events during the season I use as practice sessions leading up to the main A-race itself, others I just do for fun and to be social.

Definitely plan out your season making sure you’re leaving yourself enough time to train effectively and provide you not only that required level of fitness but the overall confidence you will need to push hard come race day and, ultimately, be proud of your efforts.

2.        Know your resources.

There is a plethora of information out there: books, websites, training groups, et al.  Use them.  Do your research and learn as much as you can about the sport, specifically about training smart and avoiding injury.  Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not suggesting you automatically believe everything you read, or perhaps try everything that might be suggested to you.  You still need to be critical and know your personal limits.  But, hey, sometimes, bad information, in itself, is valuable information.  Absorb it all and learn from it.

I often think that some of the wisest tips and most important advice I received in the early days was obtained over coffee after our morning Masters Swim group.  Having people to bounce ideas off of and then glean from their experiences proved invaluable.  That was my major resource then.  Now, I subscribe to at least half a dozen daily email forums, I follow online message boards, browse magazines, etc.  I don’t follow everything blindly, but I consider myself up to date on different training principles and tactics and then simply apply those that I consider to be beneficial.  The rest I use to line the birdcage.

3.        Try everything once.

Contradictory to what I just suggested in Rule #2, try everything at least once; particularly in the beginning; join a spin class, attempt a cross-fit, try out a yoga class, hell, jump into an aqua-fit class at the YMCA, whatever, don’t be afraid to try new things.  Boredom is the enemy.  After all, if you’re not having fun, what’s the point?  Just be wary of what you’re doing for the first time and don’t try to be the hero and push harder than you should…unless you’re able, of course, then give ‘er.

In my past five years, I have tried everything at least once.  Some experiences I liked and maintained to this day.  Some things I saw the immediate return on investment so I adopted it into my personal training schedule.  Others, well, not so much.  But, hey, at least I tried.

4.        Train to your weaknesses.

Figure out what are known as your ‘limiters’ (i.e. the things you know you’re poor at).  For me, that limiter has always been running, so I work at it…hard.  The only way to tackle an obstacle is to take it head on, wrestle it to the ground and make it your bitch.  Some say, ‘love the things you hate’.  I say, ‘Suck it up, buttercup’.  Whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

Other times, you can identify what your limiter is within each specific discipline.  For swimming, that limiter was kicking, so I put an action plan in place to improve upon that weakness.  Whenever you address and overcome your weaknesses, there is a sense of accomplishment and pride that inevitably comes along with it.  Ride that wave.  It will carry you far in this sport.

5.        Train the brain.

What I’m referring to here is ‘mental toughness’ training.  It has been said before that triathlon is ‘90% mental and the other 10% is just in your mind’ and I definitely subscribe to that notion.  Believe it.  Triathlon will test your mental limits every bit as much as it will challenge your physical limits, so that then needs to be considered as well in your training.  But be smart, of course.

My suggestion is to incorporate at least one ‘mental toughness’ session to your weekly training schedule.  Maybe you run a particularly grueling speed workout on the track instead of another easy run, or ride an unusually hilly route during one of your training rides, or perhaps you choose to suffer through that hot yoga session you’ve been hearing about, whatever, train your brain to overcome that whole ‘I can’t do this anymore’  impulse and then condition yourself to push through it.  When others around you begin to suffer and fade, it’s nice to be able to draw on that added confidence that you can (and will) endure, even if for just a minute or so more.  That confidence will pay off in huge dividends come race season.

6.        Forget the gadgets

When you first get into triathlon, you will inevitably be tempted by a whole assortment of race and training gadgets.  It’s true, most triathlete’s make Batman look like a mere hobbyist.  But I’m here to say that initially, 95% of this stuff, while ‘nice to have’, are not necessary.  They’re creature comforts that aren’t really going to provide you with any significant advantage over your completion.  Likewise, none of that stuff will make your race day any less spectacular.  You know what makes your race day spectacular – you!  End of story.  So while I will still maintain that some technology are definitely important (i.e. heart rate monitor, descent shoes, and, maybe, your iPod), you can forget about all those ridiculous faddy trends like those gay-looking toe shoes, aero helmets, and organic chia seeds.  Want to improve your run time?  Run more.  Want to improve on the swim?  Do more drills.  Want a decent bike split?  Take an extra spin class.  Leave all those unimportant creature comforts until you’re really ready to make use of them once you’re 100%  committed to the sport but, in the meantime, see Rules #2 – 5.  If you want some additional suggestions on minimizing your current expenditures, click HERE.

7.        Have fun.

For the love of God, enjoy what you’re doing.  Similar to Rule #3, unless you’re some kind of masochist (and, yes, I’ve had that very thought about myself from time to time); if it’s not fun, what the hell is the point?  Join a club, and revel in your successes rather than beat yourself over your failures, of which, there will inevitably be many.  Not every day is going to be stellar, so be in tune with your body and know when you’ve had enough to avoid serious injury from over-training.  My coach used to refer to this as “listening to your body”, which, at the time, came more across as another of her girly ‘rainbows and unicorns’ philosophy of training – not for hardened manly men such as myself – but I have learned now exactly what she meant.  Once I made that realization, I started to track my overall mood or “Motivation to Train”  specifically, in a daily training journal in order to measure the degree of which I’m actually enjoying myself, well, as much as one can enjoy themselves when their heart is ready to spontaneously combust inside their chest while doing speed intervals along country roads anyway.  You get the point, I’m sure.  Keeping it fun translates to less opportunities to bunk off a future workout in favor of that bowl of potato chips in front of the television and, that, translates to success down the road.  It’s an easy enough equation: fun = success.

Look for opportunities to incorporate this fun into your season.  I like to volunteer as a sweep rider for charity rides, or seek opportunities to bring my step-daughter to the track with me or ride our bikes together.  I’m still exercising, albeit not with the same intensity, but it definitely prevents that feeling of burn out so that when it’s time to giv’er, I’m ready and willing to go for it.

8.       Be proud.

Going part and parcel with #7 is to actually be proud of your accomplishments.  I’m not going to quote John Stanton or any other self-proclaimed fitness guru out here – they’re everywhere – but they are correct about one thing: what you will inevitably do day in and day out is nothing short of remarkable.  Be cognizant and proud of that fact.

The event itself, regardless of the result, is just the icing on the cake and, in and of itself, a pretty fucking fantastic accomplishment if I do say so myself (and I do).  Even if your workout, race, whatever, doesn’t go the way you wanted it to, you still managed to do what 99%  of other people also on this itty-bitty blue and green rock floating in the infinity of space failed to achieve while they were sitting on their ass watching Jerry Springer.  Never – ever – forget that.  Don’t dwell on what you didn’t achieve as it will eat you alive.  Focus on what you did achieve.  Remember, it’s supposed to be fun.

9.        Motivate others.

Remember how you felt when you first started this whole crazy train?  Scared…doubtful…in over your head maybe?  Now think about how far you’ve come since that time.  You probably had someone to help and motivation you overcome them.  Be that person for others.  It’ll keep you humble and maybe, just maybe, provide you with a few extra training partners in the future to enjoy the whole journey with.  After all, who couldn’t use a few extra training partners?

10.    Rediscover your own personal motivation.

It seems like nearly every week someone is uploading an inspirational video to YouTube or Facebook.  Either it’s the Hoyt’s, the crippled marine-slash-yoga guy, or maybe it’s the one about the 500lb  dude who starts running on a whim and then completes the Boston Marathon – they’re a dime a dozen.

You know what I’m talking about, it’s chalked full of ‘Can do’ spirit and tears; all set to a snappy Coldplay soundtrack and specifically designed to pull at your heart strings.  Maybe you’re inspired by something, (or someone) else altogether like a particular song in your iPod, or a personal hero of yours.  Whatever it is, grab a hold of it and make it your reason for getting out the door.  Play it, watch it, make it part of your routine.  You can never have enough inspiration and it will serve you well once you do make it out the door.

  1. Dirtsmart says:

    Nice read Terry. By the way this is the dude that lives down the road. Remember how you stalked me to my house! ha ha When are we going on our run? how do I contact you?


  2. Adam Abelson says:

    isn’t a non-self masochist a sadist?

    i’m particularly proud of the progress you’ve made since our “beer me” days, terry. kudos are well earned my friend.

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