Goals. These are both my favorite aspect of athletics as well as my least favorite. How can they be both you ask? Simple, they are the most powerful tool in psychological training but also the tool that gets misused the most. The following blog is a guide that will help you achieve most of your goals this year. Whether those goals be athletic, life, personal, or community driven, there are certain steps you should take in order to reach them.
Where do most people fail?
I can't tell you how many people I see making lofty goals. This isn't the problem!
The problem is that everyone makes outcome goals but fails to ever make performance and process goals. Without performance and process goals, outcome goals are simply just a dream. Think of a house that has two stories but no staircase to let you reach the second floor. This is what an outcome goal looks like by itself. however, when you add in the steps (process goals) and railing (performance goals), you are magically able to reach the next level of your theoretical house.
Show me an example of these goals
I will use this example because I've already seen 10+ athletes make the same goal. Winning a state time trial championship. Here is how this looks most of the time
Goal: Win the state time trial championship...
Here is how it should ALWAYS look
Outcome goal: Win the state time trial championship
Performance Goal: Improve my cycling threshold from 280 watts to 315 watts
Process goal: Ride X number of hours a week on average and accumulate "X" training stress score on average for "x" amount of time
Which goal do I focus on?
This is my favorite part. You focus 95% on the process goal. In return, your process goal is going to allow you achieve your performance goal. Then, your performance goal will allow you to achieve your outcome goal. The outcome goal is only there to keep your motivation high for the duration of the season. However, it is the process goal that you are constantly focused on. If you can maintain your process goal, you are going to be in a much better place when it comes time to try and achieve your outcome goal.
Goals should follow the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time specific) guidelines. Be sure to associate numbers with your goals so you have something objective to strive for. Finally, I'll leave you with this. Outcome goals aren't always within your control due to weather conditions, who shows up at a race, or other un-controllables. However, process goals are always within your control. It's the process goals that change who you are as an individual, the outcome goal is simply just an outcome of all your hard work. Don't ever forget that you are made during the journey, not solely because of one day.
As the snow begins to fall and the south gets unseasonably cold temperatures, we must take a closer look at how to train in the cold. There can be many positives to training in the cold as well as some hazardous situations to be aware of. As we go through this weeks article, be sure to note when you should be outdoors and when you should look inside for better results.
Disclaimer: This blog will be written for the athlete looking to gain performance through the winter. But as always, each person is different and therefore things that we mention in this article may not apply to you the reader.
Hazards of Cold Weather Training
The first thing that often gets brought up is the stinging in the lungs as the cold weather sets in. This happens due to the air being dry and your body attempting to warm the air and humidify it before it reaches the lungs. While this can be painful at first, this sensation tends to fade away after a couple minutes. What can be hazardous in this situation is if an athlete has asthma. Asthma in these conditions can flair up quickly and cause health problems if not taken seriously. One easy solution is to run with a clothing article over your mouth that is breathable. This will allow you to hold moisture in and create a small boundary between you and the air that remains warmer. The other solution would be to seek out your doctor to see if an inhaler in these situations would be warranted.
Beyond the health risks due to breathing in cold air, there is also a serious health risk for runners/cyclists in terms of slippery pavement or terrain. For cyclists or runners looking to do hard intervals or performance based efforts, it may be better to go inside to ensure proper footing on the treadmill or trainer. For the cyclist that has a fat bike, then obviously you’re in a different situation and can continue to do all types of rides outside year round, but for the majority of individuals it would be best to take high performance sets indoors to ensure proper efforts can be done without risk of slippery terrain.
Benefits of Cold Weather Training
While we have focused on some of the issues with the cold and snow, there is a benefit to be had. First and foremost its a different type of training which can help free the mind from the late summer slump you may have found yourself in. Running in the snow or riding trails in the winter is just plain fun. If you have solid footing then you can actually get in some great running drills in the cold air that you may forget about in the summer. Such things as a shorter run stride to secure better footing that can actually translate to a more economical run stride when the snow melts away. For cyclists, this is a great time to focus on handling skills. If you can get comfortable handling a bike in snow and getting aggressive, then as the snow melts away you will have improved the critical skill of handling. The reason why its often a good idea to focus on handling in the winter is because if you push it too hard, you simply fall into a pile of snow. With that being said, if you can take the right mindset into training outdoors in the cold or snow, then its a great time to focus on the intangible factors of performance that in the end create a better athlete overall.
A Mix and Match is Best
Without a doubt you’ll have the diehards that want to train outside every day all year. While this can be okay in some situations, I’ll just note that I’ve seen better results within athletes with some days inside and some days outside during this time of year. The reason is due to the high performance sets that I noted above. As an athlete, we need to target specific energy systems or durations of effort for race specific demands. When out in the snow its often hard to hold steady efforts due to added resistance, less traction, or more obstacles in your way. Therefore, if you are hitting your hard workouts outside then you are probably not hitting them as well as you could in a controlled environment (treadmill or trainer).
On the flip side, I’ve rarely met someone that wanted to only train indoors. It is a mental drag and can create resentment towards working out if all you ever do is train indoors. With this in mind, we need to be outside to instill the fun and enjoyment. This should not be dismissed just because its winter.
So, as a coach its just as important to keep the athlete motivated during this portion of the year as it is any time. Therefore, what I suggest is 2-4 key sets a week that are focused and primarily indoors. The outdoor workouts are simply for consistency, aerobic base, and to work on some intangibles This will allow athletes to get training in without being confined to any parameters. While this may not work for everyone, this style of training is what I’ve found to benefit most athletes during the cold portions of the year.
We are getting into the thick of Winter now. By understanding when to go outside and when to stay inside, athletes can make big improvements over this portion of the year. There can be hazards to training outdoors that should be noted, but if done properly it will only benefit the athlete as race season approaches. For each, their winter and focus will be different, but even if you’re an athlete in Arizona, some of these ideas may benefit you as well. There are tips and tricks that many use in cold weather, so if you have any that you’d like to share, please leave a comment in our comments section below! So remember, just because its cold or snowy outside doesn’t mean improvements can’t happen. Often times athletes that have a strong mentality and solid motivation in the Winter make the biggest gains.
As we head into 2017, athletes all over the map will be planning and getting their race schedule in tact. For many they will dream of faster races or improving their fitness overall. This blog is meant to help you lay out 10 ways to get faster as you head into your 2017 schedule. While some of these items may be shameless plugs, understand that our job as a coaching service is to make you faster/stronger. Therefore, I will label our services at different points of this article and you can do what you want with that information.
#1 Set Goals
This isn’t #1 by mistake. The best thing you can do right now is set goals for your 2017 season. Without goals, we are blindly aiming at achieving some sort of excellence that may not be measurable or obtainable. When setting your goals, keep it to 2-5 items and ensure they are SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Timely.
#2 Its Time to Buy Measuring Devices
This goes hand in hand with #1 on our list. Obtain data measuring devices so that you can accurately train towards a goal. This comes in the form of a cycling power meter, accurate head unit (garmin, wahoo, etc) and a possible running power meter. While a heart rate monitor is better than nothing, your heart rate can be affected by many factors on a day-to-day level which could stagnate your training.
#3 Understand Your Strengths and Race Them
With measuring devices comes the ability to measure your strengths and weaknesses. You should train your weaknesses but race your strengths. If you know that you have a higher efficiency level in heat than most, race a hot event. If you know you have a higher percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers, race events that require explosive attacks. You naturally will have strengths and weaknesses. Going into a race that shows your weaknesses will only leave you feeling discouraged and slow. There is a reason why Usain Bolt doesn’t run the 1 mile or marathon, he is a sprinter.
#4 Know your Race Weight
This goes with #3 if you are a heavier athlete. If you’re a heavier athlete then you will have more mass and a hot race will cook you from within. Also, by knowing your race weight you will understand when losing weight will benefit you and when it may start to negatively affect performance. If you have weight to lose, then you could drastically improve your overall run performance and watts/kg in a hilly race. If you’re already a light athlete and you race flat races, then losing a ton of weight may not be wise. Also, if you’re an athlete only cycling on a flat surface, then sometimes adding weight can be beneficial! The key is to understand your race distance/demands and what body type is best for that race.
#5 Optimize Your Equipment
Still riding Gatorskins in races…. then this point may be your most important key to 2017. Optimizing equipment in some areas can make a huge difference while in others it's kind of a waste of money. Big areas of improvement to overall speed can often be made in terms of tire selection, clothing selection, and bike fit. Let's not forget that the engine is the most important part, but if you’re a Ferrari and for some reason you put chains on your tires and hang a parachute out your trunk, then I’m guessing there are easy ways to get faster. Read #6 to figure out how to maximize this.
#6 Aerodynamic Consulting
Quite possibly the best bang for your buck currently in the sport of cycling/triathlon. The highest percentage of resistance to any cyclist is the air they are trying to overtake. This can be measured for all cyclists and therefore it can be improved. We have a service in place (Aerodynamic Consulting) to help you measure your CDA (coefficient of drag area) and then tests set up to help you improve this number. By improving your CDA from .26 (average triathlete) to .23 you may save up to 15 minutes on an Ironman bike split. If you’re a cyclist chasing Time Trial events, this is the biggest thing that you are missing out on.
#7 Sports Psychology
For some reason this always gets a bad rap. People think this is some pseudo-science or gimmicky. Well, I’m here to tel you that there are scientific research studies supporting it and its a huge factor in athletic performance. If you are pushing yourself in a race (regardless of the distance) then you will enter a dark place at multiple points of the race. Sports Psychology can help you through this. Another key way to integrate Sports Psychology into your training is if you become injured. By using different forms of Sports Psych, you can actually improve while resting. Key terms to look up would be visualization techniques, relaxation techniques, Individual Zone of Optimal Performance/Functioning (IZOP or sometimes called IZOF), mental toughness, and understanding confidence.
#8 Training Camps
Have a big race coming up in 2017 that you want to peak at? A training camp can help push your fitness to a level that is extremely difficult to reach on your own. A training camp is informative in nature, but it also includes a ton of training. By coming to a camp, the athlete can expect to leave with a higher level of fitness along with a stronger understanding of key principles happening in their training/racing. By becoming stronger and smarter, the athlete sets themselves up for a higher probability of a great race. We have camps coming up in 2017 that are currently open and available to you now
#9 Join a Masters Team, Running Club, Cycling Team
While many often train on their own, the benefit of being part of a team is 2nd to none in terms of learning the tactical/techincal side of the sport. For example, even if you’re a triathlete, you would benefit from knowing better handling skills on a bike and swimming with people in a lane at masters. Beyond the technical skills, training in a group from time to time is a great way to get in extra training that is often easy to dismiss if you’re by yourself. Finally, being part of a team is a great way to learn of different training rides/runs and races. The more you race and become part of the community, the better all-around ambassador of the sport you become. While you’re asking how does this make me faster, this is an intangible that can’t be measured, but helps towards your overall longevity of the sport which does improve performance over time.
#10 Get a Coach
Here is the shameless plug. If you’ve been writing all of this down to keep notes for yourself, then there is a high probability that you need a coach or you need to talk with your coach more. On a day-to-day basis, this is what your coach is doing. Beyond your training plan, a coach is really a personalized scheduler, notebook, keeper of measurements, and goal setter. If you don’t know how to analyze your data, a coach can do this. If you don’t know your race day weight, a coach can help narrow it down, If you're unsure of setting goals, a coach can help make them smart. A coach is like a swiss army knife, While everyone knows about the knife in their toolbox, they also come with a ton of weird gadgets that when used in the right context, make life a lot easier and more enjoyable.
Disclaimer: This article was written with the athlete that trains 5-7x a week in mind. If you’re an athlete that is just getting into the sport and not sure how to train, then I would suggest you start at #10 as that will be the best way to move forward.
Its that time of the year again. Have you mapped out your race schedule for next year? During this time of the year, I often get asked if race “x” will hurt my chances for race “y”. Should I do this race, or that race. What if I create a race schedule with 50 different races on it? These are all valid questions but in recent times I feel as if there may be a misconception that if you’re going to do a big race, you can’t also do the smaller ones. I hope after reading this blog you can find what works best for you and not be pigeon holed by only doing 1 or 2 key races a year.
Its Just Stress on the Body
Somewhere in the past 5 years, Ironman has completely taken over the triathlon scene. Along with this has come the idea that if you’re doing Ironman, then you shouldn’t be doing other races because it may hurt your training schedule. This idea has hurt local races and why I feel (only my opinion) that the local race scene is dwindling. While I understand that Ironman is a big deal and people take it seriously, I think we are losing sight of what it is we are actually doing.
The goal of training is to stress your body. What happens when you race is that you put stress on your body. If you have enough fitness going into a race (say an olympic or 70.3), then you’re not going to hamper your training at all. If anything, it may push your a bit harder which will require further adaptations from your body as you recover. If you’re fit enough, that recovery period will be small and you should come out of the race with higher fitness than you entered.
Its the Coaches Job to Make it Work
I tend to think its a cop out when a coach says, “no, you can’t race this event”. This to me is a coach not willing to think outside the box. What people need to understand is that while you can only peak around 2-3 times a year, that doesn’t mean that you can’t race and still get great results while you’re not in a peak. Along with that, if the coach can get you fit enough during the build period, then racing should absolutely be an option regardless of how far out your “A” race is.
With that being said, athletes must take note of only peaking 2-3 times a year. If you want to race, we can get you fit enough to do so, but you will only experience top notch form a couple times a year. If you’re fit enough, you’ll still get great results, but understand that you can’t be in top form all year.
Racing into Shape
This is a lost art in my opinion. We have become so specialized in our training that we sometimes have lost the skill of truly racing. There is a strong correlation between those that race the most, and those that have high success rates at racing. Its because they understand how to execute and how to attack in certain races. Whether you’re a crit racer, time trialist, triathlete, or runner, you are probably learning something from every race. The more you race, the better you become in that setting.
Beyond the tactical side of racing and gaining experience, you can actually use some races as long training days. I know some athletes will look at a 4-6 hour training day and dread it. So why don’t you find a race or a long group training session and go there instead? I know of several pro’s that do this to help their fitness build into their key races. If the athlete can understand that the “race” is simply just a way to build stress on the body and to not be overly concerned with the outcome, then this is a great tactic to build your racing specific skills and fitness overall.
If you have a 9-5 job and you can only train 5-8 hours a week, then racing every weekend may or may not be a good route for you. I’m not telling anyone that they should absolutely race every weekend. Rather, I’m trying to get people away from this idea that you can only race 2-4 times a year if you want to really be fast. I understand that every situation depends on many other factors, but for the most part, I do believe people would be faster overall by racing more.
At some point over the past several years, we have lost the art of racing. As athletes, we train and we prep so we can race. While we need our athletes to train, we also need our athletes to race if they ever want to get faster at a discipline. While your situation may dictate how much you can race, you should be aware that racing in many situations will help your abilities, not hurt them. So for all of those athletes asking if they can race in March or should they wait for their May “A” race, the overall resounding answer is race! Racing teaches us things that we often will never find in training and will better prepare you for your key events throughout the year.
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