Integrating Training into Vacations

By Coach Cody Elder
USAT L1

Your training is going well, you’ve been nailing your workouts for months and then you realize… I’ve got a family vacation coming up.  Most of the triathlon racing season and training load clustered during prime vacation time with kids off from school and the most flexibility with employers , it’s critical to keep yourself on the training wagon.

Generally, one of two things tends to happen while on vacation:
1) You shut down all training and enjoy the deliciousness that is fried beach food
2) The training consumes your trip and you end up not spending time with the people you took 5 days off to reconnect with and enjoy

For long-term training and relationship management, those are both the worst possible outcomes.  What we as athletes and coaches need to do is find a happy medium. So how do we do that?

If you’re getting away with friends and family to rebuild relationships that may be stressed due to work or training, that is the number one goal. Training immediately should be secondary or tertiary. Plan your training and expectations accordingly. One idea is to build in a light recovery week. Just like with normal recovery weeks, be sure to focus on setting your body up for adapting to the hard work you’ve put in previously.  Avoid taking steps backwards with binge eating sessions and the drinking that so often becomes the center of a vacation. Moderation is the key here.

If you do have the opportunity to get a full week of swim/bike/running in, be sure you plan well in advance. Nobody will fault you for taking a long nap during the day while on vacation, so why not get up early and take care of that long ride/run. Remember, the training is secondary. Building memories and re-establishing relationships is the key to a successful vacation. Try not to stress others in your group out about your 4-hour ride and need to be in compression for these hours of the day; get a full picture of the itinerary and do your best not to disturb it.  Think about your timing for food. Nothing can ruin moods quicker than a “hangry” triathlete.  Be sure to be self sufficient while not isolating.

One important note: Be flexible. If you oversleep and can’t get the bike workout in, keep a positive attitude and chalk it up to “I guess my body needed the rest!”. If the pool you called 2 weeks before to verify would be open is actually closed because the manager called in sick, figure out another way to enjoy the morning. Overall, keep the group in mind and the perspective that you are choosing to take this time with a wonderful group of people. Maximize those seconds and know that you can always catch up on training…

But try to stay away from the triple fried seafood platter! Enjoy and relax!

Mental Game Hurdles

By: Cody Elder
USAT L1 Certified Coach

We all have friends and training partners you know you can beat up the long hills every time you train together. But on race day they have edged you out every time. What’s the difference? What are you doing wrong? What is he/she doing right?

The answer may be the 6 inches between your ears.

Below are my 3 things to evaluate to improve your mental game and get you over the edge.

1. Buy into your training
Find or create a training plan that revolves around a heart rate and/or power strategy and stick with it. Take the time to think about the plan, what it is trying to accomplish and make sure you buy-in. The workouts should be progressive (build upon themselves in intensity, duration or a combination of the two) towards a specific race. Then you need to follow it to the letter.

Use the final result to evaluate the success of the plan. Sticking to the plan can be the hardest things for athletes especially when there are lots of ebbs and flows in motivation and perceived performance. Trust yourself and trust the plan.

2. Trust your race strategy
Based on your plan, you should have a well-outlined strategy for pacing either by heart rate or power for your event. What does well outlined mean? What do you do on hills? Do you have a cap for heart rate or power? Do you have an ideal cadence? What do you do if you feel amazing with 10% left in the race?

For your big race and really any race, decide on this well before you wake up that morning. Audibles in strategy can make or break your race and you want all of your focus on pulling your peak effort out. Again, stick to your plan and evaluate IMMEDIATELY afterwards. Just like with big moments in life, the further away get away from the event, the less intense it is. Evaluate your work and ask if you could have given more and write it down immediately.

3. Overcome the little voices
So you know what to do before the race, during the race and after the race but what about hiccups and possible self-doubt? These are what some call little demons. They start out as quiet voices in your head that progressively get louder; questioning your pacing, wondering if your nutrition was the right choice and my personal favorite “why the hell do I put myself through this.”

Across all distances, you usually see a spike in this negative talk between 65% and 85% of the race distance. I’ve watched hundreds of 20 minute power tests and repeatedly, the toughest time for people is between 13 and 17 minutes. At this point, you’ve got lots of demon noise and the best thing you can do is be your own positive coach.

As cheesy as it sounds, affirm your abilities, plan and desire with “You” statements. For example: “You have perfectly executed the first half of the race and you are going to crush the rest.” This is a technique shown to work again and again in sports psychology. However, this doesn’t start on race day. Begin developing your own “you” coaching so that mentally, you are ready for mental road bumps.

With the countless hours you put into pushing yourself physically, make sure you are building a mental game that prepares you for your optimal race day. Practice your mental game as many times as you can. Race day is not when it magically appears. A successful mental game is accomplished after much planning and practice. So find your ‘You’ statement and get ready to have the best race possible.

Change?

By Dan Arnett
Owner/Head Coach – Endurance Concepts
USAT L2 Certified Coach

Over the last 8 years as a coach, I have learned to anticipate several questions during the first weeks of a new athletes training.  The first month of training is what I call the push-back phase.  This is where the athlete is not comfortable with the training for several reasons.  Usually about 2-3 weeks into the first month, I get the expected question.  It always starts with the same phrase: “This isn’t what I normally do.”

My answer:  “That’s right, it’s not.  That is one of the reasons you hired me.”  Too many athletes hire a coach yet are unwilling to change their current habits or training methods.  Let’s think about this for a moment.  Did you not seek guidance because what you were currently doing was not working or you wanted to improve upon what you were doing?   It’s this simple thought process that is sometimes lost in the forest.

We, as people, do not like change.  We like to discuss change.  We like to say how we are going to change.  But when it comes down to the time to change, it’s the biggest hurdle to jump over.  It takes faith and trust.  There is nothing magical about what your designated coach is proposing.  If they tell you there is, then run!  There is no magical secret to training.  But I digress.  There is simply one test that must be met when you decide to let this chosen person guide your training.  Can they explain why they are doing it?  No results are guaranteed, but the method must be understood and accepted by both parties.

If you are not confident that your coach knows what they are doing, then why are you spending your hard earned money paying them?  Also, if you do not believe in your coach and the change they are proposing why is the coach wasting their time on you?

Change takes time to accomplish.  You are doing yourself and your coach a disservice if you continually change how you are doing something. And it’s worse if you do it and don’t tell them.  Give the program time to work.  I’ve seen several athletes come to me after bouncing from coach to coach or program to program and wondering why nothing has improved.  Simple answer…time.  Some methods take more time than others, but that should be discussed and accepted from the beginning.

Training is ever evolving and the methods used to accomplish adaptations are changing as well.  A good coach evolves with the times and is constantly re-evaluating their methods.  That does not mean following fads.  Proper evolution is evidence based, not Guru based.  Simply put: Every ‘trend’ is not a new coaching method.  Evidence-based coaching means taking your observations in coaching and combining them with research in the field and coming to your own conclusion and implementing that.  It does not mean regurgitating what everyone else says blindly.  That’s what I call lazy coaching and unfortunately all too common in today’s “anyone can coach” environment.

In the end, ask the question WHY and listen to the explanation.  Coaching is a two-way street built on trust, feedback and competency.  Listen with an open mind, not with the typical “well that’s not what this coach, that coach, Tri magazine, etc” says.  If you don’t truly feel that the type of change your coach is proposing is for you, then continue to interview coaches.  But don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because it’s not what you were doing before it won’t work.  Because what you were doing wasn’t working…remember?

Why I have a Coach

 By Kelly Rothwell

I get a lot of curious questions about why I have a coach.  For people who have never had a coach, it seems like an extravagance.  To others it seems almost like cheating the system, and to others like I’m less of an athlete because I use one.  For me, having a coach is kind of a luxury.  A luxury, now after a year of having one, that I will gladly work hard to keep.

Having a coach has changed my life as far as training and racing go.  I enjoy training so much more now with a coach.  Following a 16 week training plan is so boring for me.  After about 10 weeks, I’m just tired of it.  I don’t want to do it and I lose enjoyment in the training.  I have not had that problem since being trained by Endurance Concepts.  They have hundreds of workouts available to them. My coach, recognizing that I like change, often switches them up for me.

The other awesome thing about having an Endurance Concepts coach is that they specifically cater your training plan to your life.  I am a busy working mom who has to juggle a lot of things.  My coach understands that about me, and as long as I let him know in advance what my restrictions are, he will rearrange my training schedule to accommodate for that.  A set training plan doesn’t do that for you, and in the past I would have been apt to just skip workouts that didn’t work with my calendar.

Having a coach has kept me from being stupid.  Really stupid.  I’m quite apt to.  I push too hard, too soon, too fast.  I don’t often listen to my body and I keep on when I should be scaling back.  It’s quite funny how much a coach can tell by our heart rate straps, pace, and comments.  My coach scales me back when I need to be reined in.   A good coach also knows when to push his/her athletes too.

Having a coach keeps you accountable.  I never thought I needed accountability in training because I mostly followed the training plans well, but I’m discovering that I do.  There is something about having one more person that is expecting you to finish that workout that gets you out there.  I really hate having to put in missed workouts when they do happen.  My coach reminds me that even on days that I don’t want to do a workout, that I should at least go try to do some of it.  That is enough to get me out the door and inevitably I end up doing it all.

If you haven’t tried working with a coach yet, I would highly recommend it.  In the year that I’ve been coached by Endurance Concepts, I have made vast improvements in my abilities.  I’ve achieved goals that I never dreamed I could have.  With good communication with your coach and execution of their plans, you will too.