Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Getting Prepared for Race Season

The 2009 Triathlon season is definitely over and for some of you the 2010 season has just begun. Being a part of Jack and Adam’s we are fortunate to get to talk to a great deal of people about their training, often hearing great ideas and all too common mistakes. So here are 8 ideas we thought we would share to perhaps help any or all of you get a leg up on your yearly sporting endeavors.

1. Take an off-season and have a plan for pre-season: All too often people take too much time off, loosing all the fitness and discipline they gain from a season of training. Therefore frustratingly spending the majority of year 2 fighting to regain their year 1fitness. A proper off season can be as short as 2 weeks and as long as 6 weeks, if taking the right steps. Don’t get me wrong, take time to rejuvenate, let that burning desire come back, but plan ahead (see #5) don’t waste the gains from the previous season. If you don’t have a plan, take the advice below and step toward a preseason.

2. Return to having fun or playing: Most will experience a desire to take break, but don’t fall victim to a break that will set you back. Every season should involve some regression to build to a new level of fitness, but in this case return to some group activities, add new activities almost immediately post a season. Take an 8 wk strength class, heck, Jack and Adam’s offers a free Monday and Wednesday Core class each week. Play games to maintain fitness and to get off of running straight lines: play Ultimate Frisbee, volley ball, pick of games of soccer, try mountain biking, or take that weekend hiking trip you wanted. Have fun with this side of things and fitness will slide, and not go away.

3. Evaluate your previous season: During your first couple of weeks, off of training take a small designated time to evaluate your season by asking some key questions:
  • Did the season turn out the way I planned? Why didn’t it? (Set definable goals, even if only for enjoyment, will help you answer this question quickly.)
  • What did my preparation lack: strength, speed, consistency or frequency?
  • What were my weaknesses, no plan, poor consistency…? (In my experience it isn’t usually volume, it is often frequency and consistency.)
  • What is my physical condition, very fit, tired, strong, but not fast, injured, too light, inflexible and how can I make changes?
  • Will it be motivating to try to impact two or three of these areas and how might I go about doing this?
4. Plan your new season and set goals: Once you’ve answered some questions you can more effectively take time to look toward your coming year, freeing yourself of this burden when you pick back up your weekly swim, bike, run session. Pick out that race, be more specific, fun can be defining your goal (measurability and achievement time is very helpful to goal attainment); the key is in understanding when you need to readdress those goals if they appear to be out of reach. Remember, most people in triathlon are participating for a better life, pursuing better fitness, health, and challenge. Setting a goal isn’t limiting fun it assures you have the experience you set out to have.

5. Build upon this past season: Hopefully only one and a half to two weeks have gone by following the process to this point, allowing for ample time to create new motivation. There isn’t great reason to go right back into a complete recovery phase and completely rebuild from fitness “scratch”, if you aren’t laid up with an injury. There is great evidence that you can transition to smaller amounts of swimming, biking, and running and maintain contact with more intensity and make greater gains. You still have to remain aware of needs, but this reduction can assure more fitness and more time to develop areas that require more time attention. So rather then taking a break because of previously building a schedule that lacked frequency or consistency, hopefully step #3 helped define a better direction. Consider free group training, commitment is mild without financial ruin and often the pace is just right: Jack and Adam’s offers some great quality opportunities even for early season participants; group quality and long trail runs and of course moderate paced, social rides.

6. Train your weaknesses: To this point, there is obvious suggestion that planning is critical. It isn’t easy trying to improve from year to year after all. “Train your weakness and race your strengths” Mike Walden the famed founder and long time coach for mid-west Wolverine Club used to state. The idea being to devote isolated or more time to those things you aren’t so great at, while putting the things you are proficient at on the maintenance stage. The result will be improvement possessing fewer weaknesses and the ability to race like Mike Walden suggested, using strengths rather than weakness.

7. Re-introduce your strengths: Once you have devoted some time and noticed some improvement to your once weak areas, now you can balance out your training routine to meet the needs of your typical or new routine.

8. Stick to a basic and achievable routine: Apply the K.I.S.S. (keep it simple silly) principle. I know there are some elaborate methodologies detailing great training gains via ‘individualized’ adjustments to weekly sessions and I can attest to seeing some of those plans work quite well. Honestly, if the 3rd and 4th place males and 1st place female athletes in the Olympic Triathlon can follow the same basic routine with minor adjustments to key workouts for the better part of 12-20 weeks prior to the Olympics, so can you. That is right. Those individuals followed the same basic routine for the majority of their preparation. It doesn’t have to be impossible, just challenging and consistent. Consistency is what builds fitness, strength and ultimately yields performance.

By Zane Castro, Fit Specialist and USA Triathlon Level II Coach

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