More Things I’ve Learned this Triathlon Season

I love goals – obviously improvement in strength & speed and successful races are big goals, but learning about myself and life along the way is (somewhat obviously) an added benefit.  My hope is that with whatever hobby/lifestyle I’m into, I continue to grow as a person and/or athlete and learn new things each year.   I’ve made some changes to the way I train this year (discussed here), and I noticed some “psychological” shifts from this season as well:

Slowing down to get faster (Quality vs. Quantity) – This is the first year I decided to get serious with my triathlon goals and purchase a half ironman training plan (as opposed to a free one off the internet).  The half ironman pre-built training plan I purchased has been worth every penny and it’s been so much more than just a training plan.  Marni and Karel have a great saying of “Train hard, Recover harder”.  Before being in a training program I felt a lot of pressure to be go, go, go all the time; other athletes were catching up to me – I had to get workouts in once, maybe twice daily!!  Little did I realize that was just battering my body, never giving it time to repair.  I found out through the pre-built training program was designed with quality over quantity in mind.  Each time I had a hard session, there was design so that my body had time to repair and build itself up again.  The plan does not include such things as “recovery runs” and each session has a purpose and if I skipped a day, it did not make sense to double up just to get the workout done.  Don’t get me wrong, the training was not easy (there were some workouts that definitely tested me!!) and I was still averaging double-digit hours per week, but the training blocks were smart and brought recovery after the hard sessions.  I got a little worried during taper as many athletes do, but I found that I needed to trust in my training and my body and that I’d perform well on race day. 

Being in the Moment – I had a goal during my race to concentrate only on the segment I was on – when I was swimming, I wouldn’t think of the bike ride that was ahead, and when I was biking, I wouldn’t worry about the run.  Compartmentalizing workouts or being in the moment really made me enjoy the moments and removed fear/anxiety as to what was up next.  I make it a point to look up every once in awhile on the bike and enjoy the sky, cows, fields and great outdoors.  I have a tendency to rush through things in life, always planning what’s next, so being in the moment really helps me to slow down and practice enjoyment and gratitude.

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Mental aspects of sport – when I was training for the Houston marathon four years ago, a good friend told me “it’s all mental”.  I interpreted it was that I could keep going, no matter what happened.  The “it’s all mental” mantra helped me through a lot of rough spots in the past couple of years, but I never really took the time to go any deeper into the mental aspects of sports.  Later, I started listening to my thoughts a little more, and I noticed they were sometimes not the most positive – that voice in your head can be really mean –  “you’re not a natural runner“, “you didn’t train enough“, “the other girls in your AG are so much stronger than you.  I don’t think I realized how much those negative thoughts affected my performance until I started carefully listening.  Learning how to replace them with positive thoughts still isn’t easy, but I’m working to lessen the self doubt.  I love this relevant quote:

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a path in the mind. To make a deep, physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we think over and over again the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” {Henry David Thoreau}

Learning to run my own race – It’s really, really easy for me to compare myself to others, not just in sport but in life, but running “my own race” in sport and in life is a new perspective for me.  I don’t need to get down on myself if a girl passes me on the bike.  She might be having a great race, or she might burn out on the bike, or heck, she might even be in a relay!  I need to stay with my own plan so that I can execute and reach my own goals. 

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Thanking my Body – Throughout life and particularly in my early twenties, I had a lot of negative self-talk when I looked in the mirror.  I didn’t look enough like girls in the magazines, I limited my food intake, and I went to the gym daily just to stay “skinny”.  This is a whole different topic – but after I discovered sport (first cycling, then running, then triathlon), I’ve grown more comfortable with my skin and I’m finally learning in these past few years to celebrate what my body has taken me through as well as my spirit that loves a good challenge.  Yes, I still deal with body image from time to time, but I’m learning to be grateful for what my body has accomplished: some of my proudest moments being my TWO 70.3 distances.  That’s 6 hours of continuous racing my body put up with and carried me through strongly.  Thank you body! 

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Celebrate your body – none of us are perfect, but thank it for the amazing journeys it takes you on, for its ability to repair itself, and for allowing you to participate in whatever it is you do.

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3 thoughts on “More Things I’ve Learned this Triathlon Season

  1. Love that quote, love this post! So important to realize and take the time to thank your body for all it can do. One of my key takeaways this year: Comparison is the thief of joy. Though it’s still a work in progress, I know I’m in my own race and that comparing my journey to anyone else’s only results in feeling meh. Cheers to an awesome 2013! 🙂

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