From the goal-focused newbie athlete who is determined to cross a finish line with a smile, to the elite who races for bragging rights, prize money and podium awards and everyone in between, it's very easy to feel the pressure to perform on race day and consequently, overlook a few key areas which may positively affect your training journey. And because almost every athlete will have an obstacle or two to overcome throughout a training cycle (ex. injury, life change, work stress, family obligation, sickness, etc.) it's important that you never lose sight of your goals and that you always focus on what you CAN do throughout ever moment of your training journey until you reach the start line.
Without a doubt, it’s important that your voluntary, extremely active lifestyle is bringing you closer to your goals. But, participating in a race requires more than finishing a workout with tired muscles drenched in sweaty clothes, buying fancy equipment and gadgets and making traveling arrangements.
Starting today, feel worthy of your “athlete” title. You belong to a passionate and supportive group of active bodies and determined minds and there is nothing more self-defeating that constantly comparing your goals, body composition and paces to other athletes. You should always feel deserving of your “athlete-in-training” status as you are no longer an “exerciser”. Instead of wishing it was easier or searching for quicker results, take into consideration a few simple suggestions of how you can enjoy your training journey no matter what obstacles come in your way.
1) It’s not just about the miles – Consider the many variables in your life that can positively affect your training consistency and health and can contribute to a balanced lifestyle, on top of the training miles. Among the top priorities: Sport nutrition before, during and after training to assist in intentional physiological stress. Strength training to enhance your cardio-focused routine. Stretching to encourage proper range of motion and injury prevention. A restful sleeping routine to help control appetite, quicken recovery, assist in stress and attitude management and to encourage stable energy throughout the day. Intentional active recovery and rest to prevent overtraining and to encourage consistency in training. Purchase, use and a basic understanding of training gadgets (ex. GPS and HR-enabled devices) to avoid haphazard training. Keep in mind that you are still training your body even when your GPS device is not running.
2) Developing a healthy relationship with food and the body – Eat a wholesome and balanced diet for fuel and for health. When it comes to changing body composition to encourage performance gains, your body will take care of itself when you are performance-focused and not scale obsessed. Avoid words like “off-limit, bad, guilty, chubby, fat and ugly” to guarantee that you are appreciative of what your body is allowing you to do on a daily basis and that you fuel and nourish your body adequately. Always thank your body for giving you a tomorrow and for helping you get to start lines (and to cross finish lines).
3) Don’t rush the journey- To make the most physiological training adaptations with the least amount of training stress, focus on your individual response to training. Training adaptations vary between individuals and there is no perfect training (or diet) plan. A properly planned training routine, alongside a carefully mapped-out racing schedule will ensure well-timed, peak performances thanks to a progressive, individualized overload. Develop a training routine that takes into account your current level of fitness, frequency, intensity and duration of workouts, past season successes and learning lessons, current lifestyle requirements and available hours of daily/weekly training, number of weeks/months until your A-races, short and long term goals, past or potential injuries/health issues and ability to recover properly between workouts. Your body is unique and it may not adapt to your training schedule like you had envisioned. Take a step back when you feel frustrated or discouraged and recognize what your body can do and then create a new plan.