For many athletes, mid-season can be a frightening and frustrating time of reflection and hopefulness. For the typical triathlete, the first race is under the belt and still a few triathlons remain in the summer schedule. At this point many triathletes have a clear idea of what they did right and what they did wrong, in their pre-season preparation. Although you may be regretting having skimped on your base training, or those hell-ish anaerobic threshold workouts your coach had on your training plan back in May, you may still have what it takes to pull off a good race by season's end. Here are three ways to keep your fitness strong to the end this summer's endurance racing season.
1.) Make sure that regardless of your training load you are allowing yourself ample recovery and rest (sleep!!!). One misconception among novice endurance athletes and masters alike, is the idea that the harder one trains the faster and stronger a racer one will be. Althoug this has some merit, it is in the recovery phase that one's body recharges and rebuilds itself from hard effort and thus becomes stronger and fitter. I can remember being an elite junior cross country skier...and seeing all of these 30 and 40-somthings thrashing their way around the trail system at the local regional park for hours and hours. We used to have a running joke about these people amogst us junior olympic development athetes: 'they trained to race, but they raced in their training!' Somehow these middle-agers would beat their bodies and then when the competition came, they were beat and had nothing left. Don't be one of those fools! It's not what's left on the trails or road in your training set, it's the one who leaves the fastest time on the clock on competition day.
2.) Nutrition is the way you allow your body to perform in the way it was made to. Our bodies are complex and magnificent machines, but like all machines they need the right fuel and groomings to work at top shape. Simple elements to a complete nutritional regimen include consuption of a balanced meal with all parts of the food pyramid. More specifically, one should be concious of how many vitamins and minerals they are consuming and making sure to properly hydrate before, during and after training sessions. Here in Minnesota we often get a sterotype for having unbearable winters, but to those not-native or unfamiliar to Minnesota climate, it may come as great surprise to know that we can get some exceptionally hot summer days. This past week we had several days with heat indexes close to 100 degrees (F). Making sure to have not only proper amounts of hydration, but also a good electrolyte balance is key to making sure that the hydration will keep your body using the water and minerals properly. In addition to hydration one can also improve training effectiveness and efficiency by consuming a healthy amount of free-radical fighting anti-oxidants and also a good amount of Omega-3's. Top coaches and nutritionists for elite and olympic triathletes focus on a complete diet with balance of healthy foods like veggies and complex carbos, healthy fats, fibers, and moderation in sweets.
3.) Although it is a perannial ideology of my coaching practice, I can't stress enough, the importance of balance in lifestyel and training for endurance sport! There are only short seasons to enjoy, such as children that grow-up quickly, early stages of relationships, and helping those in need. Make sure that to keep a out-look on life that isn't too narcissistic in nature, just focusing on oneself, the training regemin, and making sure to stay on course towards fitness; life is about so much more than having a top 5 age-group finish at Heart of the Lakes Triathlon or beating your neighbor at the next 5Km road race. Keep balanced! If you think you might be losing perspective on things, ask those around you that know you and are closest to you. What are they saying?
Well, not all seasons are alike. Although things may have turned out much different that you'd expected-maybe amazingly well for the better, and maybe not so much, have hope, keep perspective in mind, and keep a focus on these three simple elements to the rest of your season. May it be one filled with fun, family and friends!