Updated: Mar 9, 2022
During our off season, many of us ask ourselves what our priorities are for the next triathlon season. Different people have different priorities. For some it may be improving their swim, learning more about different training methods at a training camp, or perhaps upgrading their equipment. Sometimes this can lead to buying new equipment we don’t really need (or want), although another jersey or a new bike may provide motivation to train harder. 😉 Priorities all serve a similar purpose – to help us to be faster in the next season.
Every year there are ‘breakthroughs’ in new equipment, training protocols, recovery methods, and nutritional products. However, we should not forget the basics, of what actually makes us faster. It is training and common sense…, so often forgotten or over shadowed by the promises of improvements without effort or commonly called ‘free speed’.
I recently came across an article which examined these current trends in a simple but powerful comparison. Athletes who are chasing the ‘last’ 1% might have forgotten that what actually makes them faster is the ‘first’ 99%. The 99% being the basics: a sound training plan executed well, accompanied by recovery (primarily sleep) and good natural nutrition.
It is my belief as a coach that even sound nutrition and recovery are secondary to a good training plan executed well!
I would like to use the example of an athlete I coach. She has a very demanding and stressful job, gets by on limited sleep, and her nutrition could be better. She has a basic understanding of equipment, and her position on the bike has room for improvement. Despite what many would see as shortcomings, she has instead focused on the 99%. The result; a 2 hour improvement in her Ironman.
Why has she improved? She takes her training seriously, yet is not tempted or distracted by the 1%. Whilst training is a priority in her busy schedule, she still finds time for family and friends. However what she does not spend time on is reading about triathlon, researching new equipment, trying superfoods, doing fitness tests and analysing every workout! Her head is not filled with clutter. If she has an extra 30 minutes, she goes for a short swim or a run.
With permission below are extracts taken from her race feedback after her recent ‘A’ race (where she recorded her huge Ironman distance PB).
I was so fit and felt so good. I was actually thinking the other day that one of the advantages of always eating sweets and all sorts of things is that then in the races I can eat anything on the bike with no problems at all. I ate so many chocolates on the bike that for a moment I thought I would end the Ironman weighing more than when I had started!
Yes it is true about pushing more in the Ironman. I do not think I could have pushed more on the run, but then when I see the pictures at the finish still looking so fresh, I am wondering if I just wanted to look good for the picture, that I always keep 1% energy to cross the finish line, or maybe simply that I still had something more to give?
My bike position, indeed, possibly loads to improve (I did not tell you as I felt embarrassed but I had not practiced with the aerobars on my bike before the race except that day in 70.3 race last month, all the aerobar position I had practiced was on the watt bike in the gym).
My friends and triathlon colleagues were shocked by my performance in the Ironman, and started asking about the type of wheels I had as they noticed I never had aero wheels before. None asked about the training plan, the coach (i.e. you) or all the effort we have put in to make me fitter; rather it was like they credited it to the wheels only.
We did certainly cause some sort of shock in my club as I was first female in the race and nobody expected this considering I was one of the slowest people on the bike at any distance and now many want to know about what do I do, what bike I have, etc etc. I would rather be unnoticed and keep doing my training.
I am recovering much faster than I had expected. I have been doing 20 minutes of swim, or very easy bike every day, and that has helped a lot.
Training for the Ironman was easy. Every day I did the training plan you sent me. I have no time to read or think about my sessions, it is your job to do all this stuff and give me sessions that are right for me.
The improvements this athlete achieved last season were great. Could she improve more? Probably yes!
We start this season with more experience, and with that we may choose to focus more on nutrition, better equipment and recovery. Last season we worked with what we had, with the time available, and what she was comfortable with. We concentrated on the first 90%, resulting in an outstanding race performance.
Happy Training and a successful season ahead. Rafal