Triathlon by it’s very nature is addictive. It can be totally consuming and lead us to neglecting other areas of our life. And whilst you think it may be key to focus solely on training in order to succeed, we believe that a balanced approach to triathlon optimises performance whilst minimising the chance of experiencing unnecessary setbacks.
There may be some truth in the saying “You can have too much of a good thing”, and actually after a while the sessions that you used to love, now become a chore; the goals you were working towards no longer inspire you; and the fire in your belly is extinguished. But all of this is only temporary. If you’re experiencing any of these things; or if in fact you’re at the start of your journey ready to throw 110% of yourself into triathlon, have a little read of the below to help re-set and rebalance you.
We read an article by Lauren Fleshman recently who likened athletic performance to building a wheel – and you can do the same by thinking of your triathlon training as a bicycle wheel. The day you caught the desire to be an athlete, you were handed a floppy tire tube. To go far and fast you need to build a functioning, strong wheel. As triathlon coaches, we aim to make the process of becoming a well-rounded athlete simple and fun.
The centre of the wheel, the hub, is built when you start to visualise your athletic potential and make competitive goals. It’s the focal point that everything rotates around. But the strength of the wheel is it’s support structure. Those spokes connect your desire and passion and time spent training to your goals and your ambition. Your spokes may look a little like this:
- Physical training – this is the obvious one: Your swim, bike and run sessions. These should be fun, varied, challenging yet achievable, progressive by nature and planned around your current abilities but with your future goals in mind.
- Mental training – a strong mindset doesn’t just appear. You have to train it. All the time! You can do this of course by reading books, learning more and absorbing knowledge. But you can simply just manage the way you talk to yourself too. If on the bike you always say “I’m not a cyclist, cycling is my weakness” then guess what – come to race day that’s how you’ll be talking to yourself during the bike section. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Use positive language and helpful affirmations until they stick and become the norm.
- Nutrition – what you put into your body matters. You need fuel to perform well and to recover. We don’t believe in fads or diets, just good honest healthy food. Lots of greens and veg, good fats, good sources of protein. You deserve to eat well!
- Recovery techniques – find time to switch off and recover. This can be physical in terms of yoga, pilates, stretching, gentle jogging etc. Or mental/emotional e.g. journalling, taking a nice bath, using a Headspace app. Unwinding and switching off is important. It will allow you to keep your enthusiasm for training as well as the ability and impetus to actually keep doing it.
- Life Balance – swimming, biking and running will always be here. Always. Don’t miss out on other things that are important to you. You don’t have to train at all costs to achieve what you want to achieve. We genuinely believe the happy athlete, will become the successful athlete.
- Competition – competition is important. It’s a chance to show up for yourself, identify your strengths and assess your weaknesses. Practice a positive mentality. It’s also a chance to step closer towards your goals. Lots of people shy away from competition and they needn’t. You don’t have to be on your ‘top form’ to race. Racing can be part of the training process and give you that buzz when you cross the finish line. Learn to enjoy racing irrespective of the outcome. You either win, or you learn.
- Community – never have I realised how important a good community of people around you is. Triathlon is by no means a lone sport. It takes a team of people to develop you into the best athlete you can be. I don’t just mean coaches, sports masseuses, nutritional therapists, bike mechanics and those sorts of roles; but I also mean your team mates, and your friends and family. Those who can keep you going, those who can help you identify the positives and celebrate your successes. Training buddies are important, they add to the enjoyment. Build a community of people around you that support in lifting you up. Success really does breed success.
Your wheel may have more spokes than this. but it should not have fewer. If you build those spokes evenly over time, your wheel will be strong and will carry you with relative ease throughout your athletic journey. Keep in mind that all of the spokes of the wheel are important. Put too much emphasis on one spoke or ignore another, and your wheel becomes weak and collapses beneath you.
Everyone gets out of whack at some point, but there’s no shame in getting it wrong. It’s a necessary part of reaching out into the unknown of your potential. The only shame would be in not using the resources at your disposal to get yourself back in balance.
So now what? Set some goals, chart your progress and work towards what’s important to you. There may be a detour or two along the way but as you develop your skills you’ll be able to handle them. Keep checking in with all the spokes of your wheel to make a stronger, more knowledgable athlete anchored by the ability to aim high and be a go-getter.