I have trained under a coach for years and more recently I have taken my experience and coached myself. There are merits to both paths. I would not attempt to coach myself if I didn’t have the backing of years in the sport. I have had several different coaches during my years in sport. Most were swimming coaches, however I also had football coaches, triathlon coaches and running coaches. All bought different approaches & knowledge to try and make me the best athlete I can be.
I am constantly reading other blogs about tips and hint to be the best triathlete I can be and increase my knowledge. Most sources advise to get a coach, and rightly so, as the knowledge they possess might be lacking in yourself. As a beginner in any sport I would recommend a coach, but don’t be afraid to ask questions and provide feedback about how your body is feeling. Use the time to gain knowledge, don’t just follow their instruction blindly. Only you know what is going on inside your body. Perhaps the best and most useful tool I have in my bag is my Garmin 910xt (yes old school device, I have resisted the upgrade for a while now). This device helps me track me training heart rate zones, knowing your zones will be another topic covered in another post! The benefits of tracking heart rate are almost endless, knowing when you need a recovery session, knowing when sickness is about to strike (you resting heart rate will rise days before flu and cold symptoms rear their ugly head), when you can push harder / faster / easier. This is the ultimate feedback tool, knowledge is power and my Garmin provides limitless data and knowledge to me about my training and improvement.
I have adopted a flexible but constant schedule that is repeatable every week. This allows me to alter training sessions based around my family and work needs without feeling guilty about missing a session. The consistency also gives my family the reassurance they know where I am, what I’m doing and for how long (most days). However if something pops up, like sick children, early work meeting or something else unpredictable I don’t need to miss out or add extra pressure to others.
Due to my approach, it is imperative that every session has a goal and purpose. I need to get the most out of every session. Goals are not always speed or distance based. Training for an ironman I have found more of my goals are based around time, active recovery and heart rate zones.
Disipline and organisation are the key elements to my program. I need the discipline to get out and do the sessions and achieve the micro goals without doubt or hesitation. The monkey on my back is constantly trying to get me to miss a session and have a sleep in! I need organisation for exactly the same reason, if I have laid out my cycling attire, lights and drinks are made the night before, when my alarm goes off at 4:30am I can be up and going well before the monkey starts talking me out of training cause it’s too cold or raining.
Routine and a repeatable week can do amazing things for your fitness and improvement as an athlete. Only being back in the sport for a couple of years, I have struggled to find my mojo and fitness. It has taken easily three years and really a six month block of solid 10 hour weeks to finally see some massive gains. My keys to a good self driven training program are as follows:
1. Repeatable week
2. Flexible but constant
3. Organized and disciplined
4. Something every day
5. Listen to your body (but not the monkey)!
These 5 key elements have helped me through my ironman preparation. As I enter my final week before my first ironman I find the consistency / habit is very easily broken and I am now struggling to keep getting out there and doing something. Obviously everything I do now is low intensity and all about allowing the muscles to recover so that I am fully recovered and ready to race come June 14th. I want the race to be now, I am ready and anything I do now isn’t going to have any improvement factor, but so many things could have a disastrous impact. I’m avoiding sick people, I carry a can of Glenn 20 around, carry a drink bottle around and stretching at every moment. I believe I am ready and my recovery is progressing well, now to build the energy levels and be even more ready to race! I am trying to manage every minute factor and ensure I arrive at the start line in my peak health ready to race to he best of my ability.
The five element outlined above are also very transferable to other facets in our everyday life. Have I perfected it, most definitely not, am I striving to find a better balance and more success, of course! Thanks for reading and following my journey.