Triathlon races are on! There is nothing like the night before, the excitement and the anxiety, and the constant waking up thinking we overslept or forgot to put something in our transition bags. Nothing can compare to the range of emotions as we wait in line to get our body markings, watching all the other athletes, setting up transition, and finally standing ready for the gun to go off. Thoughts race through our minds, doubts about our training, reviewing all we’ve done leading up to this day. “Have I done enough?” “Did I eat enough last night?” “Am I really ready?” Regardless of whether or not we are waiting for the start of our ‘A’ race or training though a triathlon, it’s very easy to question all our efforts leading up to race day. Chances are we have trained smart and hard. But just in case here are 10 things NOT to do during race season.
- Do not justify your poor eating habits because your training volume has gone up. Yes you are burning more calories. Yes you need to intake more calories when you’re training. But it is more important than ever, at this point in your training, to eat smart. Keep your calories clean. By this I mean fruits and veggies, lean protein, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. Eat to promote recovery by balancing your macro-nutrients (Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats) as you intake a small recovery meal within 30 minutes of a hard workout. Continue to pay attention to not only how many calories you are eating, but what those calories consist of.
- Do not neglect your bike. A week before your race is a good idea to have your bike looked over and get a tune up. Just because you had it looked over before you hit the road doesn’t mean that everything stayed where it needs to. Get the chain lubed, tires check, wheels trued, and brakes looked at. Don’t take anything for granted.
- Do not use a new gear on the day of the race! A new pair of goggles might seem like a good idea at the time, but what if the fit is off? My favorite thing to purchase is a new pair of running shoes; they always make me feel faster. But break ‘em in a little before you wear on the day of the race. Don’t leave anything to chance, test it out first. New bike saddle, new swimsuit, new socks, new heart rate monitor etc., always train with what you will race with.
- Do not stop strength training during race season. It’s hard enough to find time to swim, bike, and run each week. But by giving up your strength training you increase your risk of injury, increase your recovery time from training and racing, and decrease your power! Strength training is important and vital to your success as an athlete as well as to your overall health and fitness. Find the time and make it count. Hit the gym 3-4 times a week for at least 20-30 minutes. If you are in the weight room longer than that then you haven’t worked hard enough and are wasting your time. Avoid doing anything strength training that becomes routine, you will adapt to this and stop changing and improving. Avoid doing race specific strength training, you are already getting race specific with your endurance workouts and by varying your strength training you will improve the other areas of fitness that will keep you healthy and balanced.
- Do not underestimate the value of recovery. As we try to fit it all in, remember that without recovery time we will not get any stronger or any faster. We need to give our bodies time to heal from the damage we cause. Balance your workouts. If you do a hard swim and you have a run programmed on the same day, keep the run less intense. Follow a long and hard brick workout with a complete recovery day involving yoga or an easy, aerobic swim and a nap. Make sure that every 2-3 weeks you have a week where your weekly workouts and volume reflect less intensity and more recovery so you are ready to hit the next level in the following 2-3 weeks.
- More is not always better…it is just more. When we see our race day looming closer and closer we can get worried that we aren’t training enough. Adding more workouts prematurely will only increase the chance for injury or overtraining. Follow the 10% rule and only increase training volume by 10% each week. Also follow the rules of the taper. Do not do more during taper otherwise you aren’t tapering you are training.
- Stay focused. Training through a race means that we haven’t tapered for or plan on the upcoming race as our ‘A’ race or goal race where we want to perform our absolute best. Training through a race means that we go into it a little fatigued and are using this race as a training day for experience or a workout. Do your best but don’t question how you could’ve done had you tapered and prepared better. Use these races as a means to see how far you have come and what you need to work on. Don’t let these races determine the kind of athlete you are or your worth. They are for fun and for training, learn from them.
- Do not neglect your mental training. Each week you hit your workouts and physically prepare for your races. But are you putting the effort into mental preparation? Meet with your coach and discuss your upcoming race, what could happen and what you will do when it happens. Make a list of why you love the sport and the positive experiences you have had. Focus on your strengths and memorable races. Meet with other athletes and talk about ways to stay focused. When you train focus on how you feel during an especially tough workout and how you dealt with it. Remember that for when you struggle during your race.
- Remember that you are racing for you. Your training is going to be different than someone else’s. Your taper will be different than someone else’s and your strengths and weaknesses, fears and expectations are all unique to you. It’s enough to worry about yourself, stop worrying about the other athletes around you, don’t compare yourself to others. Compare yourself to where you started and how far you’ve come. Remember why you tri and why it’s important to YOU. Trust me; other athletes are too worried about themselves to concern themselves with you, so stay focused on your goals, your progress, and your races.
- Do not neglect the other areas of health. Being physically fit is only 1 aspect of health. As we balance our training, tapering, and racing it is easy to forget the other aspects that are just as vital to our success as triathletes. It’s easy to get tunnel vision and live, breathe, and devour all things triathlon. Social, emotional, financial, spiritual, and mental health are all important to being balanced athletes. We need to make time for our friends and families. We need to do our best at our professions and we need to stay grounded in our beliefs spiritually. If one of these aspects are neglected it will reflect in our physical abilities eventually.