In the moment – reflections on what one athlete / coach has learnt in 2018 with Absolute Tri

We hear phrases like “be in the moment” and “being present” but how are they relevant to training and life in general?

It’s that time of year when we reflect on the past year as well look at our performances in racing and also maybe in training and look to next year. Personally I have a bit of a “meh” year race wise and found myself struggling on race day with the intensity and pain levels when racing over the shorter stuff, so standard distance triathlons and 10k running. I found myself backing off in races when it started hurting. On reflection, whilst I had “done” the training, I hadn’t trained enough to prepare myself for that moment when your brain is telling you to stop the hurt.

Notice the “done”? If you look at Training Peaks, Strava, Polar flow and the other metrics that I have, the hours were there but was “I” really there, was “I” present, was “I” in the moment? I had heard these phrases before but tended to let them go over my head, not  considering them important.

This year however I have had to reassess my relationship with triathlon and how it fits in with life in general as I have changed focus and joined the ranks as a triathlon coach and finally by the end of 2018 I might have found some balance in my own training and am moving forward, being “more present” in my own trainng

What’s changed? As well as learning and starting to understand lots of cool phrases and concepts such as periodisation, build phase and other technical terms relating to training a few other phrases have started to creep into my periphery, such as

  • “Turbo sessions are for wimps, get yourself out in the wind, rain, snow and MTFU”
  • “Miles in the bag”
  • “I never use a treadmill, they are boring”

This got me thinking as to why these points of view were prevalent, always returning back to a phrase I heard from my coach when I first started learning to swim, where every time you pushed off the wall for a length of the pool ask yourself what you are going to think about, it can be the tiniest detail but never just push off and swim 25m with no purpose.

Applying this way of thinking to the 3 phrases above, we can change our way of thinking about our training:

  • Turbo training is tough but allows me to concentrate on my technique with out worrying about other road users, the weather, the terrain, spending an hour getting layered up. Therefore I can concentrate on making every pedal the most efficient I can. 60 minutes on a turbo is equivalent to 90 minutes on the road…just ask Chrissie Wellington 😀
  • What is the purpose of these miles that I am putting in “the bag” if it’s just for Strava kudos, then what’s the point? Chances are if your concerns are miles in the bag then you are “not present” and maybe your training lacks focus.
  • It’s great to throw a treadmill session now and again, especially in winter when it’s cold and dark. There usually are mirrors, so I can constantly monitor my technique. I can also really focus on the interval session as I can see my watch, I don’t have to stop for traffic and can really hit the times. If I am getting bored, am I really “in the moment” and thinking about my technique and effort levels?

If you are not sure why you are doing what you are doing, ask your coach, you will get so much more out of your training if you understand why you are doing it. With that 2 way relationship that you have with your coach, this should already be second nature. I am currently in the middle of a period of early phase training that will lead to an increase in pace with some late phase training before the build period starts in late March. I now know the importance of those longer Z2 heart-rate turbo sessions this time of year, so don’t push back against them and do a hilly long ride with buddies and cake instead.

I have started to bring these ideas in to my own training as well as sessions I deliver, so in the pool, after having worked on certain aspects of the swim stroke, we can put some pressure on to see how the athletes react to the change in intensity…are they still able to think about the coaching points? Are they still present? do you still have that presence of mind to keep those hands from crossing?

Rather than distracting ourselves with thinking of that lovely cold beer at the finish line when it’s really hurting, should we be concentrating on maximising our efficiency to get to that finish line quicker?




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