Each week of training brings something new. A new PR, new approach, new ache, etc., etc. The past two weeks have been especially full of take-aways for my own personal growth in training and I think much of what I’ve learned/decided to set in place moving forward can be applied to anyone at the starting lines of their own training adventures. So, without further ado, here are my key headlines from the past two weeks:
Make a plan
Obvious, right? Of course it’s important to have a training plan set in place not only when going after a long-distance race like an Ironman, but even if you’re training for your first 5k, half-marathon or sprint tri. Regardless of experience level, we’re all starting somewhere. If your goal is to get off of the couch and complete your first 5k race, or you’re working your way up from sprint distance to Olympic distance triathlons, you have to have a plan for how you are going to get from point A to point B – and it can’t be something you just throw together day-to-day or week-to-week on a whim. Do your research. Map out each month. Set benchmarks. Set goals. And most importantly, establish your support system. We’re all going to have “down” weeks when we’re just not feeling into it and we need to be reminded why we’re doing all of this. Make sure you have someone to tell you “hey, you wanted to do this for a reason. Let’s get some ice cream, and then suck it up and push forward to your goal.”
Follow your own path
Make sure said plan above is your plan and no one else’s. The benefits of having training partners are endless. They’ll be there to share the pain, glory and heartache of training with you. Maybe you’re training for an event that’s totally new to both of you and you’ve decided to learn and train together. Just remember that you have your own goals, which means you should have your own training plan set towards conquering those goals. Of course, your plan may be very similar to your buddy’s, but it absolutely must be 100 percent in line with what your goals are and what you feel comfortable with. More importantly, it’s okay if your training plan is totally different from your partner’s plan! In fact, it could make things more interesting. You can both learn from your different approaches and it doesn’t mean you can’t still train together!
Say, for example, one training partner (we’ll call him Adam) wants to incorporate hills into today’s ride, but hills aren’t on the other training partner (we’ll call her Cecily)’s agenda for today. Instead, Cecily wants to go for a nice long and easy ride to build comfort in the saddle and experiment with nutrition approaches. They can both still start out together, right? Okay, and if they can’t (maybe there isn’t much flat road around where Adam wants to do hills), how about planning on a post-ride coffee date to recap the day of training. Remember, having a training buddy doesn’t mean you have identical plans, it means you have someone to enjoy (and sometimes hate) the process with. This exact situation happened on Saturday and just when I was about to ditch my plan to join in on the hills, I remembered that this was my training ride and decided stick to my 2 hour flat ride. I ended up having an awesome ride and got exactly what I wanted to out of the morning.
Write, write, write
And then write some more! Your training plan should be a living document, which means it should change with your progress month-to-month. For that reason, it’s important that you document all of your training. Buy a journal you like (maybe a nice leather one, or a Justin Bieber one – no one’s judging) and designate it as your training journal. I went for a basic black journal and taped the Ironman logo on the front because I like to have the constant visual of my end goal. Do what works for you. This journal is where you need to document your daily training – yes, every day including rest days! Here’s the trick, don’t just write down what you did, but write how you felt before, during and after and include any factors that may have played a role. That’s key!
What if one day you went for an hour run as soon as you woke up in the morning with no fuel and another day you went for an hour run later in the day after you’d had a meal or two. You ran the same distances for both runs, but during the evening run you felt tired and even a little nauseated. Conversely, on the morning run you were rocking the whole way and felt like you could have continued for another hour. Maybe the evening run didn’t work for you because of the type of food you had beforehand, or maybe you just run better on an empty stomach all together. If all you write in your journal for both days was “1 hour run, 6 miles,” you won’t have any substantial information to base the following month’s plan on. You may not realize how something effected you until you look back on a couple weeks of training and see that every time you used a certain type of energy gel you get a stomach ache or a cramp. Or maybe Tuesdays are just a really bad day for you to swim because of meetings, classes, having to stay up late on Monday to watch The Bachelor, whatever. Plus, writing everything down makes it all real and makes you accountable. Oops, it’s Sunday and the last time you wrote was on Wednesday? That doesn’t look good.
Listen to your body
It’s 5 a.m., your alarm clock goes off and the first thing you think is “ouuucccchhhh.” Your muscles are screaming at you and you are plain and simply exhausted. Go ahead and sleep! Obviously, distinguish between your body feeling like it’s been put through the wringer and the fact that it’s 5 a.m. and no one likes waking up that early. Suck it up if you’re tired and get out of bed – you’ll be glad you did. BUT, if you’re hurting and just need a break, then take it. It’s important to remember that rest and recovery play an equal role in successful training. This happened to me last Tuesday and after brief contemplation (and a little bit of guilt) when my alarm went off, I rolled over and snoozed for another two hours. Those two hours were just what I needed to wake up and feel completely rejuvenated. So much so that I decided to take a midday study break and headed to the pool to make up my morning swim. Win!
Don’t hold back, get excited about every victory
Whatever you’re training for, it’s going to be a long journey. Put that end goal in the back of your mind. Don’t forget it, since that’s whatall of this is for, but if you focus too much on making that big big accomplishment, you’ll lose sight of the little victories that happen along the way, which aren’t so little! Celebrate them. I felt awesome after a 2 hour ride on my new bike and felt as though I could have stayed out there for at least another hour. I was pumped! Yeah, I’m going to have to be comfortable with riding a whole lot longer than 2 hours come November, but for now, this is enough. Today I cut 2:30 off of my 10k time – heck yeah! I’m pumped. Don’t diminish anything. It’s these little victories that are going to push you through to the end.
Smile and be positive
I read this awesome blog post the other day and just have to share it. I’ve always believed in the power of positivity and kindness, but sometimes in the day-to-day hustle of life it’s easy to lose site of that. I work at a Physical Therapy clinic and the power of positivity (and the power of negativity) often hits me in the face. One patient comes in who has endured incredible hardship and is working to overcome a mountain of setbacks, while another is pissed off because he/she can’t snowboard for a few weeks due to a bum shoulder, knee, broken pinkie toe, whatever. Ironically enough, often times it’s the former of the two patients who is cracking jokes, giving compliments, smiling and effectively spreading kindness. The latter is spreading a cloud of negativity. Don’t be a cloud of negativity. Be the sunshine.
Look for sources of inspiration
They’re everywhere. Have meaningful conversations, ask questions and actually listen. Have you asked any friends or coworkers what their New Year’s resolutions are? You might be surprised by some of the responses you get! Maybe it’ll spark a new bucket list item for you. If someone has inspired you to do something new, tell them and thank them! My big inspiration this week was my mom who completed her first half marathon today at the P.F. Chang’s Rock n’ Roll Marathon Series. She set a goal and has been working hard to reach it. She cruised through the finish line and immediately decided a full marathon is up next. That’s some Beast-mode Mom! Who inspired you this week?