It’s a New Year. The 2012 racing season is in the books and 2013 lies ahead.
It’s not unusual for triathletes to spend the first day of the new year hammering out a century ride to kick off the new season. Another option is a day of ball games on TV – the only carbs being consumed coming in the form of beer and chips. In either case, a lot of smack talk about the season ahead is usually part of the scenario.
But there’s a third option that some choose: To spend some “mind time” planning how to set yourself up for the season you want rather than talking smack and then just letting the season happen.
If you choose this third option, there are several questions that need to be addressed:
- What do I really want to make happen this year?
- What do I need to change to give me the best opportunity to accomplish this?
- Do I have the determination or will to live and train for it?
Understand from the outset that it’s easier and probably more fun to “go with the flow” and let life and the season just happen to you. You can enjoy ad hoc hammering sessions with the bikers, race whenever your friends are racing, and skip tough solo workouts when someone comes along and offers a more attractive alternative. For many, this is the best way to spend the season. But if you’re looking for a personal-best year, spending some quality time considering these three questions is a wise investment.
What Do I Really Want?
This is not a question of what you’d like or hope to have happen, but rather what you want enough to do everything in your power to make happen. A couple of ways to gauge the strength of your commitment are:
- Would you write your goals down and put it on your bathroom mirror or your ‘fridge where you (and perhaps others) will see it many times each day?
- If you spoke of it to others, could you do it in purely positive terms rather than couching it with ready-made excuses in case, in the end, you fall a little short?
This is a good time to make sure you understand a very important concept: You may possibly fall a little short of a goal to which you’ve been totally committed the entire season. This should not be considered failure if you’ve given it every single thing you had to give. It will have raised your level of performance and you can walk away with great pride in your accomplishment, whether your goal was winning or something else.
Franz Klammer, an Olympic gold medalist in downhill skiing, once said: “To win, you must risk losing.” Employing this gutsy strategy, you don’t always nail it. Sometimes you lose. But sometimes you win and the wins are unbelievably satisfying and come only from being willing to stick your neck way out and go for it, when it’s something you truly want.
What Do I Need To Change?
“If you use the same recipe, you get the same bread.” Or to put it in terms that may be more appropriate to athletes: If it didn’t work well for you in the past, it probably won’t work well for you going forward.
We are creatures of habit and making changes in our training isn’t an easy thing to do – even if there’s no progress being made. A good first step is an honest assessment of training undertaken versus results produced. The second step is to courageously make changes where necessary and experiment with a new approach. Test yourself before starting something new and continually re-test for progress, making sure you’re always testing in like conditions. After an appropriate period of time, if there’s no progress being made, try a new approach. The early season is a good time for this trial-and-error exercise before nailing your training plan down as the race season draws near.
Several areas to be evaluated for potential improvement include:
- Scheduling rest/work
- Intensity level
- Core strength
- Specific discipline focus
Do I Have the Will?
It’s fairly easy to set goals, build plans and develop training sessions. It becomes more difficult when life starts interfering with those plans. And in the middle of a grueling training session or race, the commitment can really be tested. How much do I want it? Is it worth hurting this much? Am I taking all the fun out of this? All good questions.
It’s easy to see at the pro level: Many athletes have the talent and skill to win the race. But it’s the athlete who demonstrates the will to hang in when the going gets really tough who we later see on the podium. The same is true for amateurs, except the end result isn’t always the podium. Sometimes it’s the finish line before midnight or whatever you’ve set as your personal goal.
Without the will to hang onto the goal with every fiber of your being – to be willing to risk losing to win – all the goal setting and good training probably won’t be enough to get you what you really want.
Steve Prefontaine, a runner with arguably the strongest will of any athlete who ever lived said, “I sweat blood in training so I don’t have to in racing.”His approach was to go to the front, destroying those behind him, as he simply willed himself to the finish line before anyone else. This was his approach in every training session and every race. I’m not suggesting any of us adopt this strategy, which is generally a recipe for disaster. But his will to win is something that I believe is worth striving to emulate.
- What do you truly want?
- What do you need to change to get there?
- Do you have the will?
2013 – a new year – a new opportunity. Go make things happen! See you at the finish line.