It's important to look back at the season and see what you did correctly in terms of training and what you can improve. Most all athletes can train smarter in some capacity. It can be something as simple as stretching more often, getting better recovery immediately after a tough workout, or just being aware of a much needed day off. In this article we’ll discuss a few points that will help you improve without adding more time to your training.
Goal Setting: Yes, we all set goals at the beginning of each season. We even set monthly volume goals to swim ‘x’ number of yards or miles run. How about setting weekly goals or even more importantly goals for each workout? There should be goals for each workout in terms of the intensity you will bring to the workout and the focus you must have to get the benefit of each session. Let’s talk about intensity first: We all know about going hard or at race pace in a workout and that in order to get better we need to step up the level of intensity in order to break through. That is pretty easy for most athletes; we either have that killer instinct or we don’t. On the other end of the spectrum is the easy training day. For example, on an easy training day, you may bike with some other athletes who are less disciplined and they ride harder then they should all the time. You need to know going into that workout that you are setting your HR to go no higher then ‘x’ or your power meter not to hit ‘y’ watts. This takes focus. Remember your goal for the workout. Check the ego at the door and do what you should do, not what your training partners are doing. Discipline yourself. Your training partners don’t care what you do. Remember, they want to beat you on race day. Train smarter and have a plan for each workout.
Nutrition: Post workout: Another key to getting ready for the next workout or training day is the ability to recover quickly from workout to workout. Eating smart immediately after a break through workout is the key. I like to see athletes eat real food after a workout, not a shake or an energy bar. Choices include a couple of bananas, eggs, vegetables and lean protein. Recovery time can be cut down dramatically by following a nutrition recovery plan after a workout. Make the recovery process part of your workout and get in the habit of taking nutritious food with you for after the workout.
Form/Technique: As much as we would all like to think that our form is something we don’t need to tinker with, it’s important to get a qualified coach to assess your technique in the pool, your position on the bike, and your run form. Sometimes a simple suggestion can help a ton. I suggest that athletes get video taped every three to six months in order to see what they look like when they swim, bike, and run. It’s much easier to make an adjustment once you can see what you are doing incorrectly. One of the easiest ways to improve is to have better form. Being able to become faster by improving your form/technique is a simple solution after all the hours an athlete puts into training their aerobic system.
Spend Time on your Weakness! How can you expect to get better at your weakness if you don’t spend more time on it than on your stronger events? If you want to swim faster you need to train like a swimmer for at least eight to twelve weeks. Ditto for the bike and run. You can cut back on your stronger events for this period. By safely adding volume to your training, while focusing on improving your form (see above), should provide you with some solid dividends once the season starts. Improving your weakness doesn’t always mean incorporating more interval based training. Most of the time, the solution can be adding more frequency to your program.
Recovery Days: Lastly, one of the most important things an athlete can do is to know how quickly they recover from workout to workout. On a day to day basis, one of the key components is taking your morning resting hear rate (MRHR). Get into a routine each morning of taking your resting pulse. Knowing from day to day if it’s normal or high will let you know that you may need more rest, or that today’s very important LT workout just got pushed to tomorrow. Its one thing being over reached, but quite another to be over trained. By keeping track of your MRHR you can recover from being over reached and take a recovery day or two when you need one BEFORE you become over trained. Remember that your body gets stronger and faster on the recovery days, not by piling on more hard work when you are tired.
These are a few ideas to help you get better in the off-season without investing much more time into your already packed program. Start to implement a smarter plan now, and by next season, it will second nature to you. After all, it’s the little things that separate the champions from the rest of the pack.
Michael Ricci is a USAT certified coach. He can be reached for personal coaching at [email protected].