No to SpontaneityDonovan van Gelder
Consistency is key. Any sports coach worth their salt will have said that repeatedly through their career. In fact, I would go as far as to say that consistently doing the wrong thing would produce better results than inconsistently doing the right thing but, obviously, neither is the way to go. It is relatively easy for a professional athlete to be consistent in their training but as amateurs, we have a lot of other demands on our time that often seem to be deliberately trying to mess with our training flow. Here are some things that I have learned over the years that will help with training continuity.
Plan – Race dates, work and family events, school terms and holidays etc. are all available well in advance of their dates. As much as we can, we should plan what races we want to do, which are the most important, and when we will have the best opportunity to train and conversely, when we will have to place our emphasis on other aspects of our lives. Things that can be controlled and manipulated to fit with training as well as things where training will need to fit around should be planned and worked into an overall plan as far in advance as possible. Knowing what, why and when we will need to do things in the future will lessen the chances of missing key sessions.
Be realistic – When planning our race goals and the training that will be required to achieve these, we need to be cognisant of what we can and can’t do and where we will need to make concessions to ‘real life’. A positive, confident mindset is encouraged in training and racing but when planning our training, it is advisable to be slightly pessimistic. Planning for the worst case scenario allows us to be prepared for anything that life throws at us, based on our experience. Then, if all goes better than we hoped, we will have a smoother time of things rather than having to deal with frustration and negative emotions when things don’t go as we had hoped.
Write it down – With literally hundreds of apps available to us nowadays, there is no excuse to not ‘pencilling in’ our training plan. Having our training written down in an easily accessed format will allow us to refer to what is planned when requests are made on our time and it will be just as easy to decide if we can or can’t agree to the request or at least make some sort of compromise between the training that is planned and the new demand on our time. Remember, not every request on our time is going to be a bad thing and not every training session will have priority. Knowing what we are doing, when and why and how everything fits in, allows for adaptions and edits that will not affect our long-term consistency.
Get it done early – Wherever possible, it is preferably to do our training early in the day. Inevitably, as our work days progress, things run later and later. In an ideal world, everyone would arrive on time for meetings and these meetings would not run over their allocated time. In that perfect world, our energy levels would also be easily controlled, leaving us feeling fresh and ready to smash our training after work but, we know that this is more the exception to the rule. So getting our biggest session of the day done first thing in the morning, will guarantee that it gets done to the best of our ability. Obviously, especially in the case of triathletes, there will be days when more than one session is required and wherever possible these should be planned for days with the highest likelihood of running smoothly and without complications. On multiple session days, it is still advisable to get the key session done before the World starts interfering. Nine times out of ten we race first thing in the morning so it is not a bad thing to program our body clock to be ready to go full gas at that time anyway.
Say no to spontaneity – Everywhere we look being spontaneous is touted as a positive trait but this is definitely not the case for an athlete trying to get in the training required to achieve their goals. We need structure, predictability and definitely no surprises. It is best to make sure that everyone around us knows this. This may not be that exciting for new relationships and those that we are still trying to impress and ‘sweep off their feet’ but, if endurance sports are something we are going to be doing for a long time, and this relationship is something that we want to last even longer, it’s best to lower the expectations of surprise holidays, dinner dates etc. right from the start.