It's the time of year when many of us are in the “pre-season” phase of training. Training volume is starting to increase and, if we haven’t already, we’re finalizing our plans for the upcoming racing season.
It can be easy to let things go and lose motivation in these early months of the year. It’s cold out (for a lot of us), and the race season seems far away. However, as elite coach Matt Dixon has said, consistent pre-season training is one of the biggest factors in predicting a successful racing season.
So what does this mean? Each person will have a different training schedule based on their goal races, availability and performance goals. But in general, it means you should be working on building and solidifying your foundation right now. Here are five tips that everyone should incorporate into training at this time of year to ensure a successful race season.
1) Set Concrete Goals: I encourage my athletes to set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable (yet challenging), Relevant and Time Bound. These goals could range from “set a 2 minute personal record on my 3rd time doing X race in July” to “cut 5 seconds off my 100 meter swim time by September.” Whatever your goals are, making them concrete will provide a framework for your training and help you to make decisions along the way. Talk with a coach to determine what kind of goal is attainable yet challenging, and relevant for your sport. Set a time frame and schedule check-in points to help you further focus your training and give you opportunities to see how you are progressing toward your goals.
**As an additional tip, I suggest having these goals written out and placed in a prominent spot. This might mean you have them posted near your desk at work, right in front of your bike trainer, or where you typically change into your workout gear. Doing this provides a helpful reminder of what you're working toward!
2) Be Consistent: Get into a routine and training schedule now. Being consistent and dedicated in your training schedule helps you develop your focus, mental toughness and dedication that will bring you success in your racing.
With exceptions for scheduling conflicts, illness, and other unforeseeable circumstances, aim to stick to your schedule. This doesn’t mean you can’t move things around to accommodate your responsibilities or make adjustments for fatigue and training stress, but it does mean that you need to prioritize training when possible and reasonable. Deciding ahead of time what that means for you and how you’ll fit it all in to your life helps to avoid the temptation to skip sessions when you’re not feeling motivated.
And by the way, it’s human nature to lose that motivation sometimes. Even the pros talk about this! It’s how you respond that really matters.
3) Cross-train and Incorporate Strength and Mobility Training: this is a great time of year to mix it up. Snowshoeing, skiing, hiking, ice skating and other winter activities are great ways to build strength and aerobic fitness while giving you the chance to get outside and have some additional variety in your routine.
Strength and mobility play a big role in injury prevention, recovery and performance. Integrate strength and mobility training (including flexibility and balance work) into your routine as a crucial part of your training schedule. Work that is specific to your sport of choice is very helpful. Go to a weekly yoga class, consult a coach or a buy book by a well-regarded author to develop a plan that is best for your specific limitations and goals.
**Need a suggestion for a book or resource for this? Email me and I am happy to provide suggestions!
4) Prioritize the Foundations of Nutrition and Recovery. Solid nutrition is key for an athlete. Not only should you hone your workout and race fueling strategies for the best performance and recovery, your daily nutrition and hydration habits play a big part in ensuring you have enough energy to tackle those training sessions and get the most out of them.
Along with nutrition, sleep, light/rest days and recovery weeks are just as important (if not more so) than your hard training sessions. This is when your body rebuilds from the loads you put on it during training. It's easy to prioritize the training sessions over everything, but reminding yourself that erring on the side of rest is a good practice to have. Arriving to the start of a season or the start of a race over-trained and fatigued is far worse than arriving with some extra rest. Make sleep a priority and take your rest/light days and weeks seriously. Tune into to your body to learn the signs of when you need extra recovery, and don't be afraid to take an extra day off when you need it.
5) Practice Positive Self-Talk: It might feel awkward at first to give yourself a pep talk. But any professional or experienced amateur athlete will tell you that the mental piece of racing is just as important as the physical. In fact, if you have the physical capability but are not able to talk to yourself through a race or a tough training session, you will notice the effects! Practice this skill of getting through the sessions that you’re not enjoying or not feeling motivated to complete (or the ones that are kicking your butt!) and you will be able to overcome the same mental challenges in racing.
Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned athlete, there are a lot of components that go into a successful and enjoyable training and racing experience. Starting with these key elements will help you form a solid and reliable training approach, which will lead to a more positive and sustainable routine.
Have questions or need resources to aid in your training? Send me a message with your question or to schedule a free consultation!